How to avoid 'policy override purgatory'

Dave Koshollek
Publish Date: 
Jan 14, 2014
By Dave Koshollek

If your dealership already has a P&P playbook, great! Now is the perfect time to meet with frontline staff to review and revise it for doing business today. If you don't have a playbook, create one with the participation of frontline staff. By giving staff a voice in the development process they will assume some ownership and be more likely to follow the policies created.

The other part of this project is implementation. I firmly believe we should empower frontline staff with the authority to issue or deny returns, refunds and adjustments.

I have experienced far too many situations where staff does not have the final say. This causes customers to go around the employee and complain to a manager. Because managers are typically busy with other projects, they just want the interruption to go away -- so they give stuff away and undermine their employee's authority. Do this more than a few times and you develop a customer culture of running to the manager for every little issue.

In many dealerships frontline staff are given a limit to the adjustment they can make without manager approval, such as $500 per month.

Successful implementation requires authority along with boundaries and accountability for one's actions. In many dealerships frontline staff are given a limit to the adjustment they can make without manager approval, such as $500 per month. Additional boundaries can include allowing adjustment only on specific products, or that the adjustments made are confined to those that affect only the department that employee is assigned to. Accountability comes into play by reviewing all returns, refunds and adjustments made per week, per employee.

I suggest creating a simple form that requires information such as customer name and contact information, staff name and signature, date, product or service sold, refund, replacement or adjustment made and the reason why. All forms should be filled out and delivered to the department manager at the end of each work day.

Now, I will admit that no playbook will ever have all of the answers to consistently address all returns perfectly every time. Wish there was, but the human equation makes a percentage of situations unpredictable. That's when I suggest applying my guiding rule: "Customers first and company foremost.” This means we should treat customers the way we would like to be treated, with empathy and compassion, while keeping the company's interest foremost. In this regard we determine how the adjustment will benefit the company in the long run, such as by ensuring that good customers become loyal customers when we treat them well when there's an issue.

Conversely, I don't recommend making exceptions for the same customer more than twice per year. We don't want to nurture a problem child.