I read a story today about a woman named La Rosa Carrington, who, stuck in a simultaneous fight with leukemia and unemployment, was informed by Discovery Benefits that her healthcare coverage is being canceled. Her monthly insurance premium, come to find out, had not been paid in full. Rules are rules, I guess. In fact, I'm a pretty big fan of demonstrating consistency in policy application.
This case was different.
Carrington had in fact paid her premium. Only, she had shorted the payment by one cent. That's right, a penny.
In a world where employees are empowered to be empathetic, use personal judgment, and bend rules when necessary, the fix here is easy. A Discovery Benefits representative, upon informing Carrington that her premium was not paid in full could have said:
"Our system shows that you did not pay your last premium in full, so unfortunately we're going to have to... Wait a minute. You were short a penny. Mrs. Carrington, this is silly. Do us a favor and pay an extra penny next time to cover this shortage. I'll leave a note on your account that you accidentally sent in the wrong amount. You can make it up next time. Please remember that the monthly payment is $289.45."
But that's not what happened.
Instead, Carrington was informed that her coverage was getting canceled and that she would be on the hook for the mounting medical bills associated with chemotherapy.
"A penny off? Well, that was stupid!"
"Lost your job? Not our problem."
Instead of dealing with this problem on a human level, Discovery Benefits clearly addressed it as a policy matter. A black and white issue. Instead of being empathetic, Carrington was instructed to send in a check or money order for a penny or face the cancelation of her coverage.
How strict are the policies and procedures at your credit union? Do you give your employees the authority to bend the rules when it is appropriate? Is your staff so concerned about a penny, or a check hold, or a firm credit score requirement that they lose sight of the human element of a situation?
Policies are important. People (and common decency) are more important.