Policy vs Customer Experience: Is your team empowered to decide what is right?

By Melissa Enriquez

dateTue, Sep 29, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

My most recent experience with a US Airways representative had me stunned (and not in a good way), I am getting firedUS Airways App -Rhythm Systems Blog up just thinking about it! It is a situation that I’m sure many employees encounter daily and struggle to find a balance between following process and making a customer happy. Thankfully this story has a happy ending because I did make my flight - phew!

Let me start with my love of technology and of course my iPhone! For the last 3+ years I have been checking into my flights the night before and using the mobile device option for my boarding pass. 90% of the time I add the digital boarding pass to my Passbook app on my iPhone and it never fails! Most recently, all the airlines are improving their mobile apps, so this time around I decided to try the US Airways app, big mistake.

I was on my way to visit my team in Charlotte. I arrived at the airport with about an hour before my flight, plenty of time I thought to myself. As I was getting to the front of the TSA security line, I took out my iPhone to load my boarding pass using the US Airways app and guess what, the app froze! I was in a panic. I closed the app and restarted it and still nothing, I couldn’t retrieve my mobile boarding pass. As I started to let people pass me in line, I didn’t know what to do, it was about 38 minutes till my plane took off. I got out of line and started running to the ticket counter, it was so far away! I finally got there and there was only one US Airways representative and I had to wait until she was finished with the customer she was servicing.

I greeted her in somewhat of a panic (I was out of breath from running), but I told her that I was already checked into my flight and that my boarding pass on their app wouldn’t load when I got to the front of the TSA line (I even showed her the app with the spinning wheel). She took my flight information, looked at me and said, “I’m sorry ma’am, I am going to have to re-book you to the next available flight. It's our policy that we cannot reprint tickets after 30 minutes and it is 28 minutes. There is nothing I can do about it.” I looked at her stunned. I reiterated that it was their app that malfunctioned and that I wouldn’t be in this situation if it had loaded like it should have. I asked her if she could kindly help me out since I had already waited in the TSA line and it was only 2 minutes. She was quiet and started typing away. I thought, YES, I got to her she is going to help me out! Wrong. She printed my new boarding pass and said, “I re-booked you for the next flight that leaves in 4 hours. If you want to try and make your old flight via stand by I suggest you move fast.” I couldn’t believe she bumped me off my flight! I had no time to deal with her and I rushed back through TSA to try and get my flight. Good karma was on my side that day because there was not a single person in the TSA line and I got through quickly and was able to make it to stand by. The US Airways representative who helped me get on my flight was so helpful and didn’t deny me. She did everything she could to get me on the flight! I was so relieved!

This whole experience made me think about how the first representative could have handled this situation differently. Did she have the power to override their policy and print my boarding ticket? Probably. What made her decide not too? Did she use, “it is our policy” because it is easy and creates less work?

I challenge you to think about how you train your people to follow your processes and policies and balance giving your customers a great experience. Do you empower your employees to use their best judgement in tricky out of the norm circumstances or does your team hide behind your policies because it creates less work? Here at Rhythm Systems we have our processes and guidelines to help us, but we make sure that they are not rigid. We always say to use your best judgment and do what is best for the customer. Our core value, Go the Second Mile, reinforces this behavior across our organization and it really empowers us to do right by the customer. 

What can you do at your organization to reinforce the right behaviors that your customers will truly appreciate and will want to continue doing business with you?

Melissa Enriquez


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images