The question of the day is: What is your Policy?

Policy for what? — Everything. How do we handle any given situation?

Most things are common sense, but some things need to be addressed. It could be how you handle certain transactions in your accounting, to how you pay commissions, to how you resolve complaints.

Point is, everyone needs to be on the same page. Customers define inconsistency in policy as one of the worst problems dealing with a small business. The variability of the customer experience within your own company could dwarf the differences in experience with your competitors.

For Auto Dealers, let’s start with the Sales/Doc/Dealer Fee, if you charge one. What is it for? If you are the owner, how do you want this fee explained to your customers if they ask? Whatever you come up with, inform all employees who might be in a position to answer that question. Make sure they stick to it.

How does your company handle complaints? What is the process, and does everyone know what it is? Who is authorized to handle them, and what is the limit of their ability to resolve those complaints?

Even simple things like Business Hours, Dress Code, Vacation Time, or Holidays needs to be thought out, written down, and shared with the affected people.

You should have a company policy manual that outlines all this, and give each employee a copy. Get them to read it, and sign an acknowledgement stating that they have it, and were given an opportunity to read it and ask questions.

Having known and explained policies helps employee morale, improves the customer experience, and stabilizes your business. Granted, these policies should be reviewed occasionally, and updated if necessary. If you make changes, print out copies of the changes, and get these to the employees. Date the changes. (That will be important one day.)

Now that you have that, I am going to ask the Business Owner and the Managers to do one special thing: Follow it. I ask that because I myself have worked at companies where the “policy” seemed to change depending on a manager’s mood. It’s these kinds of managers who use a varying “defined as needed” policy as a means of manipulating the employees. I’ll be honest enough to tell you that I hated working at those places. If you are that kind of manager, most of your employees hate it, too. Miserable employees = miserable customers.

You can’t keep moving the goalposts and still expect everyone to be able to reach them. 

Here’s another free idea: Sit your employees down, and ask for input. “Ivory Tower” policies can be just as bad as undefined ones. This “buy-in” gives your employees some ownership and responsibility for their jobs and how they conduct themselves.

Again, be willing to massage these policies as times change, so don’t go carving them into stone. Listen to your employees, and trust them to help you run your business. Listen to your customers, and let them help you grow that business.

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