"It's not our fault, but it is our problem."
At the The Disney Institute, this axiom is taught as a foundation for the level of service that they offer to each guest and each Cast Member.
The perfect example came up recently with this statement in mind. A customer came in with a product that is normally non-refundable, without a receipt and pretty much expected a full refund. He didn't make up a wild story about why he had to return the product. He told us he needed the money in order to pay his light bill. Whether that was actually the case or not isn't the point. By company policy, we are under no obligation to refund this purchase. He didn't play by the rules to qualify for a refund.
Can you guess by now that I went ahead and gave him a refund? Yep. I sure did. I had other employees present and I could tell they were watching what I was doing but seemed to be more interested in WHY I did it.
Years ago, I had a job at a state university. Lots of rules, lots of procedures, lots of deadlines. In my non-supervisory role, it was my job to communicate the rules and deadlines to prospective students. Those over me had the authority to grant exceptions to the rules when necessary. And after every deadline, it was necessary. Why? Well it wasn't what we had to do. It became necessary because it was what we SHOULD do. In other words, it was the right thing to do given the individual circumstances.
Policies and procedures are in place in most organizations for a reason. They are there to maintain order and avoid chaos. I read on a friend's blog about an experience he had with his cellular telephone provider. He needed a temporary fix for a problem but they were unwilling to help him. Get it? They were not willing to offer a short term solution. Instead of being innovative and make an attempt to exceed the customer's expectations, they stood behind their policies, beat their chests and said, "We are right! You are wrong and we don't care about you!"
I am not advocating dumping all the rules and let chaos guide our decisions. It's not our fault that you can't pay your light/cell phone/water/grocery/mortgage. But it is our problem and we will do what we can to fix it. Because it's what we should do!