September 10, 2008

How Policies are Perceived...

Am at our office this week, and had an interesting conversation at the lunch table about one of our staff members' dealings at the dreaded DMV. All of us have these stories of going there to get new plates and having to sit there for hours and hours...

The story that I was told went a little something like this:

He went in to renew his antique plates for his old car that he owns. He had the registration and everything he is required to have to get it taken care of, but when he gets to the counter, he is told that a State Patrolman needs to go to his house to "make sure it is actually a 1963"... He told them that he had never had this happen, and that all she had to do was look up the registration that he had in his hand that THEY PROVIDED in the first place, to make sure it was a 1963. However, she said that her hands were tied by the policy. Now, is it just me, or in this case, does the policy not seem to make sense, especially when the woman could easily figure out that it is in fact a 1963 that they have already registered and are just renewing? Seems like a faulty policy to me, and gives the impression of bad customer service...

So, being the good aspiring association executive that I am (ah hem), I said to everyone sitting around the table "makes you think if any of our members think some of our policies are as ludicrous as we think the DMV's are..." It got people talking, and we identified a few that are likely in this situation, and we thought and talked a little bit about how the members feel about them. The consensus was that the ones we came up with are really constitutional issues and things that would need to be changed by our Convention, but I think the conversation was good to have and identified a few things that might make for good topics as we head into our Convention.

I think a lot of times, in the case of the DMV and in our own situations, there are policies in place to help the workflow and for other reasons that outsiders don't understand. So my question is, why aren't we trying to help them understand so they do feel empowered, and so they do understand the reasons that we have them? Why aren't we communicating about our policies so there isn't the negative feelings and connotation out there about them?

My questions to you are: do you have situations like this where the policy says something that in some instances just needs to not be followed? If you do, how have you decided to handle them or change them? Are your employees bound by the policies, or do they have the opportunity to do as they see fit to provide excellent customer/member service?

2 comments:

David M. Patt, CAe said...

Hey, Bruce, as CEO of a runners association, I had a tremendous amount of discretion about enforcing "policies." Staff and I decided when to bend or ignore "policies."

The biggest issue? Whether or not to honor the "No refunds for any reason, including injury" policy that was printed on everything and was often viewed as stern and bureaucratic.

Sometimes good judgement and good political sense negate the need to adhere to the policy.

Bruce Hammond said...

@David - Thank you very much for your comment. I agree with you that at times, good sense and judgement should allow for policies to not be in stone. Sometimes, things are not black and white - there are shades of grey. Empowering employees to be able to handle those shades of grey when they come up seems to make for more satisfied members, which is something we're all trying to accomplish! Thanks again for your comment.