How to empower your front line staff so they can ‘make it right’ with customers

This morning I attended a lecture by internet strategist Joanna Doubleday.

Joanna asked the audience: What is your golden rule for customer service?

Two of my favorite rules are:

1) If you can spend $50 or less to fix a problem with a donor or a customer, you don’t need approval to do it.

2) Make it personal. Customers and donors appreciate handwritten notes and personal touches. Take the extra few minutes to connect.

Joanna said that it is important to allow your front line staff some leniency in how they handle customers so that they can fix problems and also so that they can offer people special treatment if they really like them or want to keep their business. It is important to not make your customers mad. Even if you make one in a hundred or one in three hundred people mad, a mad person speaks loudly and they could ruin your reputation through telling their friends, writing bad Yelp reviews, etc.

I was reminded of a customer service challenge I faced last year during a time of staff transition when I was filling in and answering our sales email account. A customer had ordered a book months prior but had not received it. In the time since the customer had ordered it, we stopped carrying the book. I didn’t want to just refund the customer the $20 after they had waited so long to receive it and gone through the trouble of not only ordering it from our site but then emailing us to check in on it. Instead I went onto Amazon and ordered the book for them with overnight shipping from another retailer with a note that said I was sorry for their trouble. The customer called me the next day and heartily thanked me.

By giving your front line staff this power, you can let them “make it right” with customers and protect your organization’s good reputation.