Policy Change for Dummies

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policy change for dummiesAs often as policies get changed in the contact center world, you would think businesses would have figured it out by now.  Apparently that is not always the case.  I recently had a negative experience with a major travel chain, and if they are failing to handle policy changes correctly then there is a good chance your center may be as well.  Thus I owe it to you good people to share my misfortune and hopefully save others from the same fate.  The following story is true.  Only the names have been changed.

Recently I found out that my father-in-law Chuck would be coming in for a visit. He asked me to get a room for him, so I called up a national hotel rewards chain and acquired one for $89.00 a night.  On the day he was to checkout, Chuck decided to stay another night, but was told by the front desk they could only book the room at $109.  They advised him to call the rewards department I had booked with to try and extend the reservation for the same rate.

Below is an excerpt from my conversation with that department:

Me:  I need to add another night onto my reservation please.

Rewards Rep:  All changes to an existing reservation must be handled through the hotel.  Would you like for me to transfer you?

Me:  I actually just got off the phone with them and they told me to call you, so can you take care of this for me?

Rewards Rep:  Sir, I just told you that all changes must go through the hotel.  That is a new policy and there is nothing I can do other than transfer you to the hotel.

Me:  No please don’t transfer me! But humor me for a second here. What if I had started the conversation by saying that I needed to book a room for tonight at this particular hotel?

Rewards Rep:  I would have booked you a room.

Me:  Great!  I would like to do that.

Rewards Rep:  I can’t do that.

Me:  But you just said you could. If we treated it like a new reservation.

Rewards Rep:  Yes, but this is not a new reservation. You told me it was an existing reservation and our policy is that all existing reservations must go through the hotel.

Me: Just to make sure I’m clear on this… You are telling me to call back and pretend this conversation never happened?

Rewards Rep: Yeah, I guess so.

From this point on I had no trouble what so ever.  I called up the same exact number and got a room at the exact same hotel for the exact same rate.

While I’m sure there was a good reason for putting this change in place, this company missed some basic steps that would have prevented this negative experience:

  • Identify potential gaps in service caused by the policy change. Is there any scenario in which a customer could get lost in the shuffle and have no place to go with an issue/concern?
  • Communicate upcoming changes in responsibility well in advance to all relevant parties. No customer wants to get caught in the “I don’t do that here” loop.  Let all impacted centers/vendors know in advance so they have plenty of time to train and develop their agents.
  • Test, test, test. One way to do this is to listen to calls under the current policy to see how that issue would be handled in the future.  Another is to role play with agents to see firsthand what the customer’s experience will be under the new policy.
  • Realize there is no way to catch everything, and empower your agents so they can resolve issues that do arise. This is by far the most important element and is essential to maintaining first call resolution results through a policy change.

When it comes to policy changes planning on the back end and empowering agents on the front end will keep you from being a pain in your customer’s rear end.