Aaron J. Crowley

Stone Industry Consultant

With most fads, I’m usually the last one to the party.  Such was the case with me and the smart-phone revolution.  

When it became obvious that I couldn’t possibly conduct business any longer without email, internet, and a GPS in my pocket, I went down to the local cellular phone store and bought not one, but four of the dang things.  A really nice Droid for me and pretty nice ones for our field manager, measure up tech, and lead installer.  

A thousand dollars in phones and an additional hundred and sixty a month in data fees was a pretty good sale for the cell company on top of the $450/month we were already spending on cell phones.  

Too bad they were to lose it all when an unbending policy left an employee with no choice but to offend my sensibilities.

Within days, my phone was seriously annoying me and I was regretting my decision. The battery drained so fast it was dead before the end of the workday and it was too heavy, among other things.   

So after about 2 weeks I was back telling the sales rep I wanted my dumb phone back.  

He was dumbfounded.  

He was also a pretty good salesman, convincing me to at least keep the phone for another couple of weeks because they offered a 30 day-no questions asked return policy.

Looking at my account, he said, “You bought this on the 18th of last month, so as long as you return it by the 18th of this month, you’ll be fine.”

In true fashion (as the editors of the Slippery Rock will attest) I waited until the last minute to return the phone…and showed up at the store on the 18th, only to be told that I was a day late.

“Hahaha– good one,” I replied.  “But the sales rep told me to bring it back by today for a refund,” I declared triumphantly, showing him the date of purchase on my receipt.

It was at this point, the cell phone company lost my $6,000 a year account.

The sales rep went on to explain that there was in fact a 30-day policy, but… because the previous month had 31 days in it, I would have had to have returned it on the 17th to be within the “30 day” period.


“But the other rep told me to come in on the 18th!”  

“Sorry, it’s been 31 days,” he said.

“I just spent a thousand dollars with you and you can’t make an exception?”  

“No sir, it’s company policy.”

“Can I talk with your manager, then?”  

“He’s at lunch.”

Now I assume that had the store, district, or regional manager been there, they would have gladly taken my phone back because they KNEW the company “valued” me as a client and my $6,000 in annual business more than the phone or company policy. 

Unfortunately, the company failed miserably to instill their values in the minds of their store level employees.   

The sales rep was never immersed in what was MOST important to the company…the client relationship.  He was never told the epic stories about bucking company policy in the interest of keeping a client happy. He was never given permission to defer to the company’s core values in the absence of a manager. 

And the inability to accommodate my situation so offended me, I completely switched cell phone providers. That’s right, I paid the early termination fees, went through the nightmare of switching phones, and knowingly settled for worse coverage… all on the principle that if you value your policies more than my business, you won’t have my business anymore.

So what about our companies?  Are we needlessly and unknowingly offending our clients because our employees don’t know when values ought to trump policy?  Do our employees even know the values that would influence such decisions?   

If not, it’s gut-check time.  It’ s time to identify and communicate the very values and personal principles we would use without thinking in those touchy, customer service situations.  

To do so is just smart business.  Anything less is just… dumb.