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  • Nick Hague and Paul Hague

The customer experience handbook everyone should use

What sort of person recruits somebody to do a job and then doesn’t trust them to do it? Actually, this happens all the time.


The other week we called in at a local cafe to grab a coffee. It was late afternoon, 4 PM to be precise, and the cafe had six tables. Three of them were occupied and the other three had chairs stacked on top. There were three of us in our party and we grabbed our coffees from the counter, placed the chairs of one of the tables on the floor and sat down.


No sooner had we done so when the young man that had served us came around from the counter and told us that we couldn’t sit there.


“Why not?” we asked.


“We will be closing at 5 PM and this part of the cafe is closed” was his reply.


“Well we have an hour to go and we’ll return the chairs onto the top of the table when we leave in about 15 minutes”.


This wasn’t good enough and we were told that we could sit down but it would have to be outside. Outside it was raining.


“No problem” said our helpful waiter. “I will roll down the blind and you can sit underneath it”.


We couldn’t believe what was going on and we wanted to know why this fuss and effort was being made to lower a canopy and set chairs outside in the cold when, with significantly less effort, we could continue sitting at a table in the warmth of the cafe. Our waiter explained that these were the rules.


We were out for a pleasant afternoon’s walk and had no wish at all to get into an argument. However, the logic of what we were being asked to do seemed incomprehensible. When we voiced this opinion the waiter shrugged his shoulders and said those were the rules and he couldn’t do anything about it.


So, here is a young man who has been recruited to serve customers, take their money and offer hospitality but who did not have the authority to use his own discretion.


It reminded us of Nordstrom’s rule book. Nordstrom employs 75,000 people in its stores in the US and has a reputation for brilliant customer service. When someone is employed at Nordstrom they are inducted with the rule book. To be fair, it isn’t a book at all, it is a 5” x 8” card. On one side of the card it says:


Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them, so our employee handbook is very simple. We have only one rule…


And on the other side of the card it says:


Our one rule – use good judgement in all situations.


At the bottom of the page there is a sentence that says - Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager or human resources any question at any time.


Isn’t this the handbook that should be used everywhere?

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