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Do Customer Service People Really Want Autonomy?

Not that long ago I discovered, to my dismay, that some customer support and customer service people didn’t want autonomy. I always thought, like my friend Shep Hyken suggests in the tweet above, that everybody wanted to use judgment and decide things on a case-by-case basis.

But I was discussing this in a business owner workshop once when one of the owners in the group said:

Actually that’s not really true. Lots of people want not to think about it, and not to take responsibility to decide when to make exceptions. They want the simplicity of being able to have clearly defined rules to follow.

Shep Hyken Amaze Every Customer

And in defense of Shep Hyken, who’s a true expert in this field, it’s not fair to take pot shots at a tweet. If you want real insight into customer service, check out his book Amaze Every Customer.

But it’s also a good reminder that you have to take every piece of advice carefully, always evaluating whether or not it fits your exact content. There may be a lot of good practices, but there are no reliable best practices. Well, sort of.

And here’s the rest of that exchange:


  • Joshco0752 says:

    I’ve found that employees like guidelines. They want to know what constitutes success and what they need to do to reach success. Too often we give too much lattitude. Employees who would be great employees get confused and stuck. There probably is a balance. I’ve found that excellence is often scripted. The key is not having the script sound like a script and to ask people to do what they would want to have done. I like the word guidelines, it makes it easier for employees to have focus on what’s right….that along with culture usually works.

  • Shep Hyken says:

    Hey Tim – Thank you for the shout out in your blog post. So, let’s talk about the script. That’s where the great companies start – with a plan and a script. Great to use as a guideline. Something to always fall back on. The best support people know how to use the script, make it natural and make the customer feel like they aren’t going off the script. And, some of these great people improvise. That’s the beautiful thing about a script. If you decide to do a little improv, you can always come back to the script.

    One of the tools in the book mentioned above is about “One to Say YES and Two to say NO.” The concept is that the front liners are empowered to say yes and come up with customer focused solutions. They are trained and know what the boundaries are. They have to get management approval to say no to a customer. That’s the type of organization I want to do business with.

    Thank you again, Tim. Keep doing AMAZING things!

  • Daria Steigman says:

    Hi TIm,

    It’s an interesting issue, because clearly some process and structure is always needed. However, I want to work with, hire, and (as a customer) hear from people who are and want to be empowered to think for themselves — and work with and do business with companies who trust their employees enough to give them that autonomy.

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