I am a big fan of Hilton hotels. I repeatedly choose Hilton over other brands. I like their Hilton Honors rewards program. I like their hotels. And I usually like their customer service.

Recently I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn (one of my favorite chains) in Atlanta for a conference. As we walked up, the young guy at the front desk showed great Hilton-like hospitality. But as we walked through the check in process, it was clear that he had studied his policies manual. From room cancellation times to the free bottles of water given to Diamond level Honors members, he knew - and enforced - ALL the policies. I understood what he was doing and politely pushed, but finally agreed. After all, a policy is a policy.

But as he continued, he began enforcing policies (only two breakfast coupons, no free soda only free water) that I've never heard of. It became clear that his focus was on serving his company and not on serving his client. After he had said "no" so many times, one "yes" would have gone a long way. But he stood his ground. Ultimately he won...but Hilton lost.

Front line employees are the most critical, yet often among the lowest paid. From the church receptionist to the checkout person at retail, we staff our first impression positions with entry-level employees. We must be sure these roles are filled with creative individuals who see beyond the black and white of policies. They must be trained and empowered to serve their customers. They should know the limits and yet be given the freedom to make decisions that ultimately "win" for the company.

Have you ever met a "rule-follower"? How did the interaction make you feel about the experience?

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