Policy, Schmolicy, I Want My Skis!

By Beacon Staff

For months, my youngest boy has been saving up for new skis. In an instant gratification world, it’s nice to watch a kid save for something he really wants.

With over 5 feet of snow hitting the mountain in the last week, the timing was perfect to pick them up this past weekend.

Saturday was the big day, he finally went to pick up his new skis (Elan something – I’m not a gearhead, sorry) at a consignment shop in Whitefish. He took them to a local ski shop to get bindings mounted and adjusted for his boots.

When he drops off the skis, he asks if he can get them the next day. No problem, they reply.

When junior calls the next day, his skis aren’t ready. The work hasn’t been started because the shop forgot to ask for details like weight and skill level – important factors in setting up bindings.

Junior’s a patient kid (not sure where he got *that* from) so 90 minutes later, he gears up for the mountain and takes off to get his new skis.

After months of saving and this unscheduled 90 minute wait, and after driving 25 minutes to the store, my son calls me to say that he can’t pickup his skis. He isn’t 18 and can’t sign the waiver. Result: I get to stop working and drive 25 minutes each way to Kalispell to the store to sign for him.

It’s interesting that no signature is needed to buy skis, boots, poles or bindings. I know, it’s just me who finds oddity in these little inconsistencies.

Before I head for Kalispell, I question the ski shop guy about the situation. While remaining calm, he repeatedly says things like “I just do the work” and “It’s just our policy”.

Do I care that “its just our policy”? No.

Now we’re moving into important territory – When your staff answers questions like in this way – do your clients care? Doubtful. They care about what’s important to them – and your legal issues aren’t on the list.

I’m not asking ski guy why I have to sign. I know that’s just something the store’s legal folks require because the industry suggests it. I’m asking why the store thinks it seems ok to take a kid’s money when they know they can’t take delivery of their product.

I’m also asking them why they aren’t informing their customer at the time of the sale that picking up gear will require a parent signature. Doing it then would provide some warning and prevent many parental customer service issues.

Instead, I get policy speak. Yummy! (I hear it has fiber)

What would have been better?

How about this: “While our legal team requires us to get a parent signature, we feel it’s important that parents are informed when we sell certain products and services to their children. This form is how we do that.”

If they really wanted to go nuts, they’d add this: “If your kids are expert skiers or riders and you don’t want pickup-time control of gear repairs, we can keep you from driving across the valley and wasting your valuable time. Imagine if Tanner Hall had to bring his mommy in to pick up his board. Kinda silly, isn’t it? If you trust your kids’ expertise, we have a form that lets them get the work done and picked up without delays or interruptions, and still keeps our legal guys happy. Best of all, we send you a postcard every time they pick up gear covered by the form, keeping you informed.”

Much better.

Train your staff to communicate policy framed as a customer-centric benefit, rather than as corporate policy statements (that’s what the paperwork’s for). Your staff is there to create and improve upon the relationship you have with your clients by helping them, not to repeat “It’s our policy” because they haven’t been trained otherwise.

If you have policies in place that might be misunderstood by your clients or that might inconvenience them, explain them from a customer-centric point of view *before* they cause a problem. Find ways to eliminate the inconveniences, making life better for you and your clientele.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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