Break Your Own Rules

I had a couple of great little customer service experiences recently that I’d like to share.

On both occasions the employee admitted breaking the rules.  They had done something that I , the customer , thought was great service. But it was against the practices or policies as applied by their own managers.

See what you think.

“I Like To Give My Best Customers Free Drinks”

I’m on holiday in a bar I’ve been to a couple of times. On both occasions we’ve had maybe two drinks and left a very modest tip. On the third occasion the waitress comes over without taking our order.

She remembered it. A large beer, a white wine. Ice on the side.

She says – “This is a free round on the house. My manager doesn’t like me doing it – but I think regular customers deserve it. Please don’t mention it if you see him.”

Two previous visits. To her – we were now regulars. I think we went back to the bar every night for the rest of our holiday. The manager never knew why.

“How could anyone remember something so stupid?”

So I’m staying in a hotel that has free Wi-Fi. Except you have to renew it every few days at reception. And you are given a very complicated password and username that you can’t change, and you have no chance of remembering.

So one day I see someone new on reception and I ask her for a couple of passwords.  She asks – “Can you tell me your room number Sir?”

And she hands over two user names and two passwords – personalised based on our names.

She says – “My manager says its not policy. But people keep saying they forget their passwords and they keep coming to the desk.  I mean , how could anyone remember something so stupid? So I thought we could use their names. Please don’t tell them I do this though.”


Customer Service isn’t about policies , systems and protocol. It’s about common sense.

Knowing the customers , personalising service, surprising people with the unexpected. Making them remember you.

Management should be about encouraging these unexpected behaviours that don’t follow the script. And building these unexpected acts into everyday service.

My mission for the week?

Tell my teams to break a few rules every day. As long as they encourage customers to tell me about it.


5 thoughts on “Break Your Own Rules

  1. A perfect summary, Paul:

    “My mission for the week?

    Tell my teams to break a few rules every day. As long as they encourage customers to tell me about it.”

    We NEED to get that feedback, we must understand and learn from our customers – and be able to recognise our colleagues for going the extra mile and doing such a great job!

    Great blog!

  2. Rules are for Robots ,my own work policy was to do what I felt needed to be done, and then let Management worry about the Rules, if ever there was a Complaint. My suggestion, therefore, is to trust your People – if they fail, that’s your fault for employing them in the first place ! – if , however, they flourish, then you will move up the ladder with them.

  3. Paul, I agree with you.


    As you know, I’m fairly new to social housing specifically and the public sector generally. I’ve been astonished by the rules and regs around public sector working, the sheer bureaucracy and the mental blocks to innovation.

    That’s not in my organisation actually. I’m not just saying that because I should – we’re genuinely pretty forward thinking. But when you are working with partners, you are bound by certain rules that are there not because they are good rules but because they have always been there and that’s the way things have always been done.

    I’ve spent a week or so banging my head on my desk!

    So while I completely agree with your sentiment, I feel that the reality is significantly more frustrating!

    1. Part’s of the public sector have laid their foundations with rules , and created boxes to tick.And boxes within those boxes. But it’s a genuine time of change – have a read of the comment from Jayne Hilditch over on my “disrupted” blog – we need people like you more than ever. Keep up the fight Pamela!

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