The Benefit of the Doubt

The Benefit of the DoubtThose that have read my articles or heard my presentations know that I am passionate proponent of service standards as a key component to building brands. One of the best service standards I’ve seen came from a credit union I worked with about ten years ago. It began “Give people the benefit of the doubt.” This applied to both members and employees.

It reminds me of a bookstore in Denver that stated they gladly accepted checks from their customers. They included an explanation that almost all of their patrons are good people and that they wouldn’t penalize the many for the few “bad apples” that would deliberately write them bad checks.

Lately, however, I’ve experienced just the opposite. Recently my wife and I patronized two different restaurants intending on having drinks and appetizers at the bar. At each location when ordering drinks I was asked if I wanted to start a tab. After replying “Yes, please.” I was asked for an ID and a credit card which they would both hold until I paid the bill. While I’m happy to show identification — especially at my age as I can feel like I’m still young enough to get carded — in this era of identity theft I will never let anyone take my ID out of my sight. On both occasions we paid for the drinks with cash, finished them promptly, and then left the establishments without ordering anything else and without any plans to return.

It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to build brand loyalty without trust. When one customer takes advantage of our business it’s a natural reaction to create service standards or rules to protect it. However, resist the temptation to implement policies that punish the many for the sins of the few. Giving all customers the benefit of the doubt will make a better brand impression, lead to more repeat business, and grow more revenue in the long term.

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