When you hear a sales clerk say they can't because "it's our policy" don't you just want to throttle them?
Cinda Baxter of The 3/50 Project wrote a wonderful blog on exactly that topic and called those the three worst words to say to a customer, based on an experience that many of us will find all too familiar.
I started to comment on her blog about how I train my staff to deal with such issues and decided it was worth sharing to everyone.
You have policies. You teach them to your staff. You ask them to follow those policies. You even have reasons for each of those policies. But every now and then a customer makes a valid point for bypassing those policies. Before your staff blurts out those three bad words, do you empower them to make policy exceptions on the fly?
I teach my staff our policies, especially the why behind each policy, but then I let them make adjustments to meet our one and only true goal - to make the customer smile. The only thing I ask is that if they bend a policy to get a smile, they have to report back to me what they did.
Sometimes they absolutely nail it and do the right thing by the customer (and because of it I sometimes have to adjust the policy). Sometimes they do things that I wish maybe they hadn't done.
Either way, I always praise them for first making the customer smile.
Then I praise them more for taking initiative. Then I praise them for what they did right. Then, and only then, will I offer suggestions for how they could have done it differently.
By doing it that way I continually empower them to take initiative. I continually empower them to make our customers happy. I continually empower them to think on their feet and make smart decisions. The praise is the key to the empowerment. Fear of criticism is what holds most people back. Heaping praise on them makes them want to do it more. Heaping praise on them followed by suggestions for doing it better makes them want to do it more and do it right.
The end result is that the only time my employees every say the phrase, "It's our policy," is in response to, "Wow, you guys are all so helpful!"
PS Policies are really only guidelines. Remember that the most important goal of any transaction is to earn another transaction down the road.