Strategy & Leadership

Don’t Penalize Honest Customers For the Sins of a Few

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared on Shep Hyken’s blog and is republished here with permission.

The other night I had just returned from a trip and was hungry. I wasn’t sure what I wanted for dinner, so I went to the refrigerator, opened up the door and stared into a somewhat empty box. Other than some beverages and condiments, the fridge was pretty much empty. I didn’t feel like pizza delivery. I wanted something healthier: a thick, juicy hamburger and fries. Okay, not so healthy. But since it wouldn’t be delivered, I decided to be (a bit) healthy by walking to a local restaurant.

I walked in and asked to place a to-go order. “No problem,” said the hostess … until I ordered the hamburger and French fries. By the way, I must tell you that this restaurant has one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted: big, thick and juicy — prepared just right. And it is very reasonably priced. I was then informed by the hostess that they no longer do carryout service for their hamburger.

“This restaurant prides themselves on customer service, but they just informed me of a very bad customer service decision. … they made a rule based on one customer’s bad behavior.”

About that time the manager came over and heard what was transpiring. He gave me the following explanation: We no longer offer our hamburgers as a carryout item. We had a customer come several times and order a lot of them at once. We decided at that point not to have that item available as carryout.

I was surprised. This restaurant prides themselves on customer service, but they just informed me of a very bad customer service decision. It wasn’t that they decided to not make their hamburgers available as carry out. It was that they made a rule based on one customer’s bad behavior.

Don’t make a rule because one or two customers (out of hundreds or even thousands) abuse your system.”

After all of that, there is a happy ending to the story. The manager could tell I was disappointed. I offered to sit down at the bar and eat and said to him, “It is disappointing that you would punish all of your customers because one customer took advantage of you.”

He thought about it and said, “You’re right.” And he sold me a burger and fries to go. He also told me that I could order it as carryout anytime.

So, here’s the lesson, and it’s a good one. It’s important to have standards, and in some cases policies — oh, how I hate that word, policy. But consider this: Don’t make a rule because one or two customers (out of hundreds or even thousands) abuse your system. Make your rules for good customers, not bad ones.

This article first appeared on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service Blog and was written by Shep Hyken. You can read the full version here.

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