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Policies and Procedures with Customer Focus

Apr 9, 2008
A company's policies and procedures are a framework upon which a firm operates to ensure efficiency of operations. While these employee guidelines may serve well a business's internal operations, there are no guarantees they will satisfy its external goals. This is crucial for a firm to consider, as its main business goal is customer retention.

To maintain a competitive advantage in today's economy corporations must keep their focus on the customers who are the lifeblood of their business. Leadership effectiveness within an organization shows its true stuff when it is able to harness the best qualities of its employees to serve its customers. Often the policies and procedures a company works so hard to implement and enforce can get in the way of the achievement of the goal of customer satisfaction.

Improper policies and procedures can stifle an organization's progress. Some of them are too constraining on employees and can cause some to lose their creative spark. These result in bored, unchallenged, even resentful employees who may not perform at their optimum level.

It is wise for firms to seek input from all employees when it comes to developing policies and procedures that will work. "Policy should be developed in consultation with those affected..." (Fern Richardson, June 2006).

A retail firm may have an employee who would love to run with a decision to offer a discount to a long-time customer. Company policy dictates that the decision must come from the employee's manager. The manager may be new and have no idea of this person's status as a valued customer.

In addition, this manager has had no personal relationship with the customer to desire giving an incentive to them. The result is a customer under-appreciated and an unsatisfied employee who has no decisional autonomy in his or her job. A policy and procedure prevented the firm's ability to extend goodwill to a customer helping to keep the company in business.

Ineffective policies and procedures have a widespread effect on an organization as a whole. When applied across departments that interact with one another they may create conflict. For organizational health, there must be a collaborative team approach to reaching company goals. This team approach must focus on a common goal, the gaining, and keeping of customers. Any policy or procedure that prevents them from doing so is a counter-productive one that needs modification.

A certain set of operational stipulations may unknowingly favor one department over another and cause friction between departments. This will significantly reduce productive collaboration. Conflict between employees dampens productivity.

This conflict forces employees to focus their energies on dispute resolution instead of product or service betterment. Conflict also can produce a 'who cares?' attitude among employees which may decrease quality, whether of product or service, along with productivity.

All of this of course filters down to the end user, the customer. While everyone sometimes plays the fool, people, as 'customers' do not. They will exert final judgment by penalizing the company with a loss of sales. The customer may go further and give the company bad publicity through poor word-of-mouth advertising.

That is why every policy, procedure, and collaborative effort in an organization must have the end user of the company's product or service as its focus. "Procedures are developed with the customer/user in mind. Well developed and thought out procedures provide benefits to the procedure user." (Policy and Procedures Team UC-SC, Dec 1994)

Policies and procedures should not exist as parameters that prevent employees from giving customers the level of service they desire. Policies and procedures should not be an end unto themselves where a company considers adherence to them more important than customer needs. A customer satisfied is a customer who knows an organization has fulfilled their promises to them.

When policies and procedures promote creativity, outside-the-box thinking, and a collaborative atmosphere then a company produces more and better product. If it's in the service sector, the service it sells will be superior to its competitors because its employees are firing on all cylinders and content. In the end, the company, its employees and the customer wins.
About the Author
T. Fox researches workplace productivity due to mood disorders, lack of relationship building, and depression symptoms. In this articles he discusses lack of leadership manifested in Policies and Procedures, that are in direct conflict with effective collaboration and productivity.
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