Godin's latest post touched a raw nerve, so thought I should rant some. I can recall at least two instances in the recent past when I was at the receiving end of this playing_by_the_rule_book problem. And while I appreciate the fact that, as he rightly points out, exceptions are costly and complicated to make, I'm sure some intelligence behind_the_counter could have left me - the customer - feeling less bugged.
Take the first one. Bunch of us had dropped in at a highway coffee day on a big football game night. (It can be argued that we should have stayed home and watched the game in the comfort of bean bags beer and flatscreens, but there's a story to that..) They were playing MTV - and here's the best part - on mute, and we wanted them to switch to ESPN. And the guy behind the counter just wouldn't budge. Quoting the rule book and telling us CCD has an agreement with MTV to play music channels alone. (on mute? now that makes for some entertainment! Turns out they have another agreement with Worldspace to play their music. AARGH!) This in spite of the fact that every other table joined our cause, they had all in fact asked for the same and been turned down. This isn't even so hard a case as renting out a DVD to a foreigner. The TV wasn't hacked to only play MTV. Every group hanging out there wanted to watch the game. What good is it having men behind the counter if they cant/arent allowed to use their brains? We might as well have coffee vending machines. Of course we put up a fight and walked out, and found the nearest bread-omlette and tea dhaba where we watched the game on a 17 inch screen with no remote.
I'm too tired to go into the next one right now. Just wanted to make the point that enabling and educating the frontend guys with the power to make exceptions can only help the cause of the business. And like Godin says in his post, it doesn't always have to be by yielding to the customer's demand. As long as we feel we're talking to a human and not a bot on the other end we're cool, so talk common sense not rules!