Theodore Roosevelt said it well, “Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.”
Through a number of events that occurred in the last couple of days, I have had a fire lit underneath me and a wish to scream out, ‘Do we have to have such rigid rules people? What about flexibility and compassion? Can we think outside of the box just a little?” I was going to ask you to forgive me for my passion . . . and then I thought different. This is one of the passion fires that I will light for the rest of my life. This does not mean that I won’t pick my battles and that I won’t let go and move on. We all have to follow rules that we don’t like. It does mean that I will continue to choose to question ridiculous rules (in hopes to illicit change) and to expect humanness.
I realize that there are reasons for rules and procedures. They provide a framework or a foundation to keep things running smoothly, for safety and for order. It just makes sense, for example, that one must stop at a red light and that order comes from standing in line to be the next person at the movie, register, etc. There are also procedures that need followed with paperwork for a variety of things; when applying for a driver’s license; and going through airport security, etc., etc. And while there is the necessity for these, sometimes I feel that the rigidness of robs people from being human, flexible and compassionate with each other.
I have experienced so many times when rigid rule following and the need for procedures did not allow for the possibility of flexibility and lost the human touch. My husband and I were on vacation in Vegas and went to the hotel restaurant at that awkward time where breakfast is ending and lunch is beginning. I asked if I could order a grilled cheese, thinking since they were serving toast and cheeseburgers, this could likely be accommodated. I was told that this was not possible because it was not on the menu. I asked if they could charge me for another sandwich of equal value and pointed out that they had all the ingredients. The server was adamant that they could not vere from the menu and it would not be possible to grill this.
I was in Washington DC with approximately 10 colleagues for a leadership institute. We went for dinner at a local pub. When we asked for the bill, we were told that the restaurant could not separate the bill into individual receipts. They also could not figure out what we each owed. We had to take the one receipt, separate out what we each had for our meal, add the tax and then they would let us pay individually. This procedure was inconvenient and inflexible. It did not build positive customer service at our table, I assure you. These examples are small things. I am sure that we all have a long list of rigid experiences and the unwillingness or inability to think in possibilities. They create frustration, lead to people not feeling heard and just plain don’t make sense.
Good customer service is so pertinent to gain return customers, don’t you think? Kindness, helpfulness and flexibility pays dividends in gaining loyalty. I had a really good experience with the Keurig company. I had wanted to purchase the Vue model coffee maker. When I finally went to the store to purchase it, I was so excited. I had bought 7 boxes of k-cups online to have them mailed in advance. I hurried home with my new caffeine toy and enthusiastically pulled it from the box. I found a place on the counter, set it up, organized the k-cups and decided to make my first cup of joe. When I put the cup into the holder, it didn’t quite fit. My husband was now helping me and we were trying to figure out why the top would not puncture the k-cup. Then I read a little label that was placed strategically on the coffee maker. It said that the Vue has its own coffee cups. The k-cups were not compatible. I went from excited, to deflated and then frustrated. I had all those k-cups that were unboxed and that I would be unable to use. I decided to call JCPenney to see if I could return it, since it had water and was out of the neatly organized box. The representative validated my disappointment. He said that they would be glad to take the return. I called Keurig to confirm that the Vue took different k-cups. I told the customer service representative about not having the knowledge of the different coffee cups for the Vue earlier than opening the package. They stated that she could understand the frustration. She said that this was not a new complaint and that they would take this back to the company. To make things right, they offered to send me some free k-cups. Both of the representatives that I spoke with heard my concerns. Being personal and showing empathy was all it took. I would also suggest that they had the flexibility to offer something free to soften the situation. The rules were flexible.
I think through all of this, I have learned that we need to think through our decision making with following some rules and procedures and ask, “Is this the humane thing to do?” Or “What are the possibilities to make this particular situtuation better?” I believe in my heart of hearts that when people feel heard, accommodated and valued, it sends a much better vibe into our world.