Common sense isn’t always Customer Service

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Do you find yourself frustrated that your team don’t seem very good at making decisions when it comes to dealing with customers? It comes up a lot in my coaching conversations whether its over-servicing, under-charging or sorting out the occasional visit from Mr. Cock-Up (every business has them from time to time).

In the late 90’s while I was working for Ernst and Young I was doing some research and researching and came across a case study about Nordstrom; an upmarket American retailer, famed for their customer service.

New employees are given a card that has the one company rule on it; ‘Use good judgment in all situations’

Employees are given complete discretion when it comes to dealing with customers and if they are going to make a mistake they are encouraged to try and make sure it is in the customer’s favor.


Common Sense?


It all comes down to what constitutes good judgment, or common sense, and the problem is no one has the same judgment or sense as you.

If you really want your employees to sharpen their ability to make the type of brilliant decision’s that you so consistently do (tongue firmly in cheek) then you need to teach them to apply my simple margin triangle tool.



There is no is right or wrong decision in customer interactions, only a trade off between the opposing forces of Quality, Service and Margin. If you want your people to get better at making consistent decisions than start by getting much clearer on your business strategy in relation to these three forces so that they can keep the triangle in shape.

Quality – A Ferrari and a Ford have different measures of quality applied to them. The difference in quality is reflected in the price the customer pays. What are your product or service quality standards and where are your quality red lines?

Service – What are your service standards when you get it right, get it wrong or when the customer gets it wrong? Customers may have a different sense of what level of service is acceptable and this may not always align with your own.

Margin –? Do your employees even now (both at Gross and Net level) the amount of profit that constitutes break even in the transaction.

More often than not it is the margin that gets bent out of shape as there is a tendency to engineer a win-lose outcome. But before you pull your pants down for the customer it is worth considering the full spectrum of options available.

What way you gonna go?

So you have to decide whether you are going to take the Nordstrom approach, in which case be prepared to accept that people won’t always make the same trade-offs you would, or whether you are going to have policies, rules and procedures to inform customer interactions


Form an employee perspective giving people well coached discretion makes for a richer experience of work. From a customer perspective it is less clear whether they value flexibility or consistency.

If your ready to change the way you and your team interact with customers, suppliers and each other, in pursuit of new levels of performance and results you’ll need to access a new paradigm from which to operate your company


Book yourself into my next FREE breakfast and breakthrough session and learn how to make these effortless shifts while hanging out with some other passionate business builders. Places are strictly limited so don’t miss the chance of learning how to get yourself, your managers and your teams effortlessly creating higher levels of performance in your business. BOOK HERE.