CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: “By the Book” or By the Relationship


Breaking Down Barriers to Great Customer Experiences

When I think about company policies the first word that comes to mind is law. Sometimes our company policies are more like “law” than they are policies. Even the words company policy, can bring about feelings of fear, discomfort and even anxiety for some employees.

Should breaking company policy at work bring about the same feelings as running a red light and being pulled over by an armed police officer?

I remember the first time I broke a company policy—I was terrified. Even though in my heart I knew that the decision I made created a better customer experience, I was convinced that I would be fired on the spot! Many company policies are about protecting the company from the customer instead of helping improve the customer experience and get the customer what he wants. Employees feel like they have to “enforce the law”.

So, how do you balance company policy with building customer relationships?


1. Humanoid Robot Employees

Humanoid Robots are just like they sound—employees who follow the manuscript (aka the policy, go ‘by the book’) without passion or enthusiasm — just following the rules because they are the rules. They might care enough to go through the motions but are not truly engaged in serving the interests of the customer. Humanoid robots do not contribute to positive customer relationships – do not go out of their way to create a great customer experience or to fix a bad one – and customers know it.

 2.  Employees are NOT Empowered to Help

There is nothing more frustrating than watching an employee who wants to help the customer but doesn’t have the authority to act, even when it comes to minor decisions, because they’ve had policies drilled into them repeatedly or been routinely reprimanded for diverting from a company policy.

What are the most common customer experience issues at your community? If you don’t know just ask the leasing consultant onsite. Identify one common issue and train your employees on how to resolve the problem. Then empower them to handle it on the spot!  The best time to deal with a complaint or problem is while it is happening. Surveys reveal that seven of ten customers will do business with you again if a problem is resolved in their favor. That number grows to 95% if it’s resolved on the spot. Of those customers who quit your company, 68% do so because of an attitude of indifference by the company or incompetence. Train and empower your employees and the result will be a positive customer experience and improved employee morale.

3.  Company Policy Overload 

When was the last time you took a good look at your policies? Do you really need them all? Policies can be outdated, or just plain dumb. How to handle company policies is a training issue. When a policy problem appears, team members should immediately know what they CAN do, not just what they can’t. Do you train your new employees on what the policies are and how to respond to customers whose problems can’t be resolved without challenging the policy book? It seems that many employees simply default to saying “It’s our policy,” and then shrugging their shoulders. How is that working for you? Ask your customer.  

4. Not Reviewing Your Driving Record

Do you hold your employees accountable? Do the signs in your leasing office promote the fact that management wants to hear from the customer about their experience, or do they simply brag about how great you are? Are you accessible? I love the signs on the back of the 18-wheelers that ask, “How’s my driving?” More than once I’ve called one of those numbers. If you want to know what your customers are thinking, provide them with an easy channel to voice their thoughts. Don’t make them dig through page after page on your website to find you. Don’t wait for them to vent on an apartment reviews site. Be proactive!  Make it easy for your customers to complain.

Can you think of a time a corporate policy got in the way of delivering or receiving a great customer experience? Please share!

-Maria Lawson

Don’t miss another post! Use the link on this page to Subscribe Now to receive All Things Considered… An Ellis Perspective by email.