1 to say Yes, 2 to say No

If all you do is “empower the front line” — grant your employees more freedom to wow customers — they will almost certainly strike the wrong balance between customer delight and shareholder returns. The key to success in empowering frontline employees lies in giving them a framework within which to operate — and feedback about how they are performing within that framework. Take TD Bank, for example. The bank has a framework within which every employee understands the business objectives of earning customer loyalty, and where every business practice is designed to encourage both systematic and spontaneous attempts to wow customers.

It all starts with a culture in which every employee knows the business outcomes TD Bank is trying to achieve, with clear rules about how to do that and frequent feedback on how they are contributing to the bank’s success. One example is TD Bank’s “1 to say Yes, 2 to say No” rule. Every customer-facing employee is taught that their job is to satisfy customer requests if at all possible. As long as they stay within the bank’s policies, finding a way to say yes is something they are expected to do independently.

If, however, a policy does prevent them from satisfying the customer’s request, they can’t simply tell the customer no. Instead, they must seek advice and support from a supervisor. Why? Because TD Bank’s leadership knows that it is often easier for an employee to rely on the letter of a policy and move on to the next customer than to take time to seek a creative solution — it’s easier to say no than to say yes. Requiring employees to seek additional advice in these situations makes it harder to say no and levels the playing field.

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