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“Next In Line” And Other Stupidities

It’s a bad sign when “the rules” outweigh common sense. As I sat outside the TSA PreCheck access lane at LAX recently, I witnessed a family of three trying to enter. The family was stopped by an airport employee (not a TSA agent, as this was outside the secure area) who was checking passes to make sure people could enter that lane.

Of the three people in the family, one person had three small bags, one had one bag, and one had two bags. “Only two bags per person. Next in line,” the employee said loudly. The family members got flustered (they may not have spoken English as their first language). They tried talking to the employee, but only got literally shouted at in return: “NEXT. IN. LINE!” I’m sure you’re seeing the solution to the problem. The family withdrew, redistributed the bags to two per person, approached the employee again, and were waved through. Ridiculous.

Blindly following the rules: It’s easier than using your head. It’s easier than trying to make the customer happy. I get that the employee can’t let people in with three bags. But she could have suggested that the bags be redistributed among the family. She could have had a welcoming demeanor. And she could have avoided shouting in their faces.

Unfortunately, leaders often encourage “follow the rules, or else.” The rules are there for many reasons. But you must remember that rules are there to help you meet your business objectives — they are not business objectives themselves. And rules should continually: 1) be examined in light of common sense, and 2) be administered with the customer experience in mind.

Instead of rigidly enforcing rules, tell your staff that they have the discretion to make the customer happy. As long as their actions are guided by that principle, then the staff won’t get in trouble for deviating from the rules. Maybe the rules need to be changed, after all.

Time for you to implement. It’s Ron’s Monday Mission™:

What “rules” do you have in place for how your staff deal with customers? Reach out to your staff members, and give them the authority to make the customer happy, and to report when rules are broken in service to the customer. Some will be shocked to be given this level of trust and autonomy, but they will love you for it. 

Have a great week,



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I'm Ron Evans. I dramatically improve individual and organizational performance. If you found today's topic intriguing and want to apply it to your situation, I'll brainstorm with you. The few who follow through and take me up on my offer will benefit greatly. Strike while the iron is hot! 


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