• Jeanne Bliss

Empower Your Team: Seek Out and Eliminate Rules That Make No Sense


Do you have any rules that inhibit employees’ ability to serve and diminish their service? Rules that customers question, especially your best customers?

If you do, don’t fret. Every company has them, and for some reason, they tend to live long lives. What sets companies apart is that they’re constantly on the lookout for them. These are often crazy things like: not honoring a cancellation if it is made within seven days of the final days of a contract, or charging a fee to your best customers to redeposit their miles for a canceled trip, or not opening an account for someone until a piece of paper has been delivered both electronically and by mail.

Why is it so hard for companies to spot crazy rules you might ask? Because we have a lot of them. It’s hard to skim them all at once. But it is our job to diligently lessen the impact of those rules that inhibit people’s ability to deliver value and to serve.

Replace Rules with Trust: A Case Study

These rules show up in every kind of business. To squash out more rules, social media technology company Hootsuite has even appointed a “czar of bad systems,” which they came up with after the approval process to give away the company tee-shirt cost them over $200 in time and resources. So they took an action to kill the crazy rules.

This old rule and process probably made sense, in their early days when they had to watch all their spending. But a thousand employees and greater riches later, it just didn’t make much sense for Hootsuite. They replaced that rule with trust. Eliminate ‘crazy’ rules that frustrate customers and put the burden on your front-line employees to get exceptions! Improve #CX by replacing rules with trust.

Bad Rules Cost Companies

When these rules impact customers lives, your best customers get increasingly vocal as they run into them repeatedly. And the people they debate them with are your front line employees, who have to try hard at getting an exception or finding that work around, not the people who made the rules. They are the people who have to listen empathetically and then listen and try their hand at heroics at getting an exception or rule wave or taking a bit of the customer pain away.

These rules also prompt customers to play costly “service roulette.” You’ve probably done it yourself, right? It’s where customers call back again and again until they reach someone who can swat away that rule or get the outcome they desire.

And here’s the kicker. These rules not only make customers and employees crazy, but they are estimated to cost companies billions of dollars a year: to cover resources to uphold them, managers to oversee them, and employees to deal with them, often in repeated sessions with customers.

Empower Your Team by Giving Permission to Speak Up

You have an opportunity to make it easier on employees to deliver value to customers. Perhaps you might follow the lead of Commerce Bank—now TD Bank— that lifted up the spirits of all of their employees by simply asking them: “What’s getting in your way. What stupid rules can we kill?”


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