The Hidden Message In Policy

I had a run-in today with Microsoft. My laptop needed an update to Windows 8. I put in my credit card for the download and an email arrived saying that it would take 4-6 hours to process the transaction. WHAT?! #%@$^%!

My assistant is leaving early, and I'm in and out seeing clients all day. It's Friday, and I need this done before the weekend. Every single time I've made an online purchase, downloads have always been immediate. Something was not right. I called up Microsoft, and they told me it was a problem with the credit card I used - it was that company's policy. He said it took time for the funds to be released. I asked him if I would have the delay with another credit card and he said, "No."

While speaking to the credit card company, they blamed Microsoft. They said that they got notification of the transaction and approved it.

So, I called Microsoft back and got a different support person. He said the delay was the result of the credit card company's policy. I asked him to cancel my order so I could use a different card. After telling him the original credit card company had approved the transaction, he no longer wanted to take a new one. He told me he would work on this himself, but that it would take an hour or two.

The Microsoft representative listened to my tirade about how he should tell marketing and the CEO to alert customers about the delay with this particular credit card. He must have been working while we were on the phone, because by the end of the conversation, my download became available.

So what is the lesson here?

Policy is a form of communication. Policy communicates how you treat your customers, how you treat your support staff, and what you value. Policy demonstrates whether a company is truly connected and engaged with their customers, or whether their decisions are made in ivory towers.

The policies that you set impact perception - are you cutting edge or are you behind the times? When the standard in e-commerce is instantaneous transaction and download, to have to wait 4-6 hours as a matter of course, creates the perception of a dinosaur. A policy communicates who you are really serving. In this case, it was not the customer.