No Tolerance Policy

As customers, we have all too often heard the same justification for an organisation not responding to our request – the dreaded ‘policy’. “It’s not company policy” is often the first response to an unusual or difficult customer request. In the article below, Steve Simpson recommends a policy reversal-one that is imposed on all staff and managers. Read on…

I’ve just returned from our local news agency where I was seeking to purchase some index cards that I want to use in an upcoming event at which I am speaking.

Normally the people in the news agency are very nice. Today was an exception.

I was the only customer in the store. I was looking on the shelves for the cards and the two staff, who are old enough to know better, were sharing their views about how one of their bosses would be unhappy when she learned about something that had happened. “She’ll have the sh#!s for days” I heard one of the women say on a number of occasions.

As I exited I walked straight past these ladies. One of them looked at me, said nothing, and watched me walk out of the store empty handed.

In my view, this single event says a great deal about the future of the business.

Many retail stores display prominent signs saying ‘No Refunds’. I think this news agency, and most other organisations for that matter, should implement a new policy called ‘No Tolerance’.

The difference with a ‘No Tolerance’ policy is that instead of a policy being directed at customers, this is for staff. And the ‘No Tolerance’ should relate to adherence to organisational standards.

Most organisations have standards – and they may relate to a range of issues, including dealing with customers, dress standards, occupational health and safety, implementing procedures, and so on.

Such standards only have meaning to the extent the organisation is serious about them. If an organisation does not treat standards seriously, then they will not make any difference. Even worse, non-adherence to standards may create a downwards spiral as people recognise the rhetoric-reality gap. The risk is that cynicism builds, and cynicism is the fuel of self-inflicted poor performance.
Most standards are created in good faith. And at first, there are serious efforts to meet them.

But they decline through an iterative process. Someone messes up slightly in adhering to a standard and people let that error slip. Then someone else misses the mark and again this is let go. Eventually, the standard has no meaning.

That’s why I’m suggesting a ‘No Tolerance’ policy. If we are serious about implementing certain key standards, such as customer service or safety, then there cannot and must not be any tolerance for non-adherence.

Now it is possible that this was a once-only slip in our local news agency. I’m not going to abandon them for that error. But it is also possible that this is a sign of a gradually declining tolerance for what is acceptable. It’s the risk all of us face in our day to day work.

No refunds? I say ‘No Tolerance’!