Most policies don’t allow space for grace in customer service. Policies, by design, create certainty. They protect businesses in an effort to reduce legal exposure and financial loss. But when we rely on policies too heavily they create problems. Problems including poor customer service and public relations fiascos.
You’re on your way to an event and it starts to rain. When you arrive security won’t admit you because you’re not wearing boots. Policy requires attendees wear to boots. Boots are a safety precaution to reduce the chances of attendees falling. A lack of safety precautions creates exposure to lawsuits.
You drove 2 hours to attend the event and were not aware of the policy in advance. Security has a choice. They can enforce the policy, protect the company, and have a disgruntled customer. Or upon hearing your situation the guard shares where there are boots you can borrow. This is grace.
Extending Grace is Tacit Knowledge
Grace isn’t something you can write into a policy or process.
It’s tacit knowledge modeled within the company. Team members know grace and how to extend it by how you lead. Your actions towards team members and customers when they mess up demonstrate what is acceptable behavior.
- When a client is late on a payment, how do you respond?
- When a customer wants a refund after 30 days and without a receipt, how do you respond?
- Do you adhere strictly to the company policy?
- Or do you ask questions to better understand the situation?
I’m an advocate for policies. I’m not advising to disregard them. Instead, know there are situations where extending grace is the right thing to do. Grace is an investment in relationships with your customers.
Failing to Show Grace in Customer Service
Early in my business, I hosted mastermind events with facilitators across the country. Due to the sensitivity of the discussions within the events tickets were limited, non-refundable, and non-transferrable without notice. An attendee emailed me last minute to let me know she couldn’t attend and would give her ticket to a friend.
I responded to remind her of the policy and gather more details. When the facilitator provided the event recap, I found out the friend showed up instead. I sent an email to remind the original attendee and the friend of the policy. Big mistake!
It made the friend feel embarrassed, unwanted, and furious. I tried to call to smooth over the situation but with no luck. The damage was done. My lack of grace in the situation didn’t sit well with my facilitator either. My strict adherence to the policy behavior had a negative impact on multiple relationships.
What could I have done differently? The ticket sales and communication were coming to directly to me. Next time, I would loop the facilitator in on possible ticket change and how to respond should someone new arrive. Not having a relationship with the ticket holder or the friend and trying to enforce a policy after the fact did more harm than good. In the future, I would create and communicate a better process for ticket transfers.
What is Grace?
Extending grace is a personal choice. You can’t buy or earn it. It’s not given out of obligation or pity.
Giving grace isn’t a sign of weakness but of kindness. It’s recognizing an opportunity to show kindness when someone least expects or deserves it.
Grace doesn’t require acknowledgment or gratitude. You give it freely without any guarantee of how the person will respond.
Grace is not the absence of standards or consequences. Cancel culture is motivated by revenge to destroy lives. Whereas, empathy motivates grace holding us accountable and creating space for us to do better.
Grace gives us boots to weather the storm.