Empowered employees have the ability to make customer-focused decisions. They are trained well and then given permission to do what’s right for both the customer and the company.

One of my favorite tools from my recent book, “Amaze Every Customer Every Time,” is that it takes one decision to say “yes” and two to say “no.” What that means is the employee has the ability to do what is necessary to take care of the customer without the typical manager’s approval. No more, “I’ll have to check with my manager to get this approved.” Instead, the employee has to check with a manager to say “No” to the customer. The employees have been trained on what they can and can’t do for their customers.

Lean Into ‘Yes’

There are obvious reasons one might have to say “No” to a customer, including some that don’t need management approval. For example, you may not carry an item the customer is asking for. That doesn’t preclude you from helping the customer find it elsewhere, but it is obvious that you and your company won’t be providing it. Or perhaps what the customer is asking for is illegal.

But what employees can do is more important than what they can’t do. Sometimes customers will ask for something different. Or they have a complaint that may take a creative solution to resolve. It takes training for employees to understand what they can and can’t do. Once employees make good customer-focused decisions, they need positive feedback to reinforce that what they did was right. This creates confidence for the next opportunity. And a bad decision should become a teaching opportunity versus a belittling reprimand.

Business Drivers Also Drive Employee Decision Making

All this brings me to a conversation I recently had with Randi Busse, who wrote the book “Turning Rants into Raves.” In her book, she talks about four business drivers, which are revenue, retention, reputation, and referrals.

I thought these were the perfect “drivers” to help employees make good decisions, especially when the customer is making a special request. Knowing the answers to the following questions puts it all into perspective.

  1. Revenue: Will a decision I’m making for the customer cost the company extra money? Most of the time, the correct answer is, “No.” That said, sometimes it’s okay for it to cost extra. The employee needs to know how far they can go.
  2. Retention: Will a decision I’m making for the customer cause them to want to continue to do business with us? Obviously, the correct answer is, “Yes!”
  3. Reputation: Will a decision I’m making for the customer enhance the reputation of the company? Again, the answer is, “Yes!”
  4. Referrals: Will a decision I’m making for the customer make them want to refer the company? I hope so!

These questions are a great start to help employees learn the secret to making good customer-focused decisions. I would add one more: Is it legal? The answer may be obvious, but some of our clients in the financial world deal with compliance issues that seem more of a nuisance than a law. Laws are laws.

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