How many times have you found yourself frustrated out of your mind because the customer service rep you are speaking with can’t help you due to a company policy? I know that I’ve found myself much too often in that situation.

I don’t fault the customer service rep, though I think they receive the brunt of the frustration. It’s just so aggravating and common to talk to a company with self-serving policies that don’t enable a rep to help the customer.

Which is why I was so surprised by one of three questions that I was asked by Amazon after a recent customer service encounter.

My experience with Amazon’s customer service

I had reached out to Amazon because I could no longer stream videos through my Amazon Prime account. I was using the online chat support. The rep was very helpful and we were able to find a solution. So when I received an email with a recap of the instructions I needed to follow and a request to click whether or not my problem was solved, I was happy to click yes.

A page then loaded with a simple, three question customer service survey (1 to 5 rating scale). The first two questions were very typical: “Ease of working with Amazon on your issue” and “Quality of our service representative.” But then, Amazon rocked my world.

The third question read, “Amazon’s policy on this issue.”

Woah!

Amazon wants to know whether or not I perceived its policies as a problem. That’s a fundamental shift in the typical, corporate way of thinking. Rather than hide behind policies, Amazon is looking to change policies if they don’t serve the customer.┬áThis type of approach to customer service is what made Zappos such a success. They are relentlessly customer focused.

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How this one question helps you

From a company standpoint, what’s also very powerful about this question is that it helps in root cause analysis. If a customer rates a customer service experience as low, it might be convenient or tempting to point to the rep as the culprit when the real problem is the policy.

A common technique in lean manufacturing is to ask “why” five times when there’s a problem. The idea is that you want to get to the root cause, not a superficial symptom. Obviously, that’s hard to do in an efficient, timely way with customers. But asking them to rate your policies takes three seconds and may lead you to very different conclusions, policies and business outcomes.

Go on, give it a try.

Take a second and read more on enabling customer service reps.