The word you’re looking for is ‘leeway’

One consequence of today’s rule-driven and box-ticking business culture is that intelligent staff have less leeway to use their initiative… even when it’s painfully obvious that a longterm customer is about to be lost. Here’s a classic example.

I’ve stayed at the same hotel at least twice a month since autumn; the staff don’t even ask my name any more. Tonight I needed to cancel – a stomach bug’s stopped me travelling – and it was an hour past their no-cost cancellation time. Which meant a £60 fee.

Fair enough. An hour is an hour. But one hour… for a regular customer… who’s now not going to stay in their hotel again, for the sake of one hour’s leeway on one occasion? I’m sure the reservations person knew the situation perfectly; she just didn’t have enough leeway to take the ‘right’ action.

What’s the NPV of a customer staying at your hotel practically every week for the next year? Several thousand quid, LOST because you levied a £60 ‘fine’ on him for cancelling at 5pm instead of 4pm. All you had to do was display £60 of leeway and you’d have him ensnared, more loyal than ever.

However, because of this fine, I am now ‘fining’ Holiday Inn ten nights’ stay. About a thousand quid in lost income for them.

Leeway. Not enough people have it. And a lot more need it.

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