Retail golden rules: Don’t ever tell a customer “Sorry, that’s our policy”

Over the past few weeks we've been highlighting some of the things a sales person should never say to a customer, as listed by service expert and former retail proprietor Bob Johnson in Appliance Retailer magazine. So far we've covered Will that be all?, You'll have to, I can't, I know how you feel and I don't know —here is the next phrase you should never say: “Sorry, that is (or is not) our policy.”

Somebody attempting to hide behind policies as an easy way out of a situation is not a good idea. With some non-professional salespeople, the aim of this statement is simply a way to avoid taking responsibility or it’s an attempt to dismiss the other person by shutting the discussion down (or should I have said shutting up?).

Take a look at your policies and ask yourself and your team, “Is this policy adding value and helping customers, or is it getting in their way?”

Never gripe with customers about your company policies: if you have a problem with a policy, discuss it with your manager and find out why it is there so you can defend it (for example, health and safety concerns).

Be empathetic with customers. Consider what you would want a business to do if you were in the customer’s situation.

This is certainly not to say that all company policies are bad for customers. In the past week, I have had the unusual situation, in two different stores, of items scanning incorrectly. In both cases I simply asked for a refund of the amount of the overcharge. However, in both stores, despite my protestations, I was refunded the whole amount charged and told “That’s our policy”.

By the way, I think a useful underlying policy could be, “There should never be any reason for any customer to leave our store unhappy or disappointed.” Then stick to it.

The complete list of phrases you should never say to a customer were published in two parts across the February and March issues of Appliance Retailer magazine — both are currently available.

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