To empower an employee is to give her permission to do whatever she thinks is reasonably necessary to satisfy a customer. For example, let's say that you own a clothing store and a customer is unhappy because the pair of slacks that he wants to purchase is missing a button and there is not another pair in stock. You're at the bank making a deposit or out to lunch when the customer comes in. By empowering the employee to do what she feels will please the guest, you are showing your trust and confidence in her business-making decisions. In this case, the employee may give the customer a 20 percent discount on the slacks that will cover the inconvenience of having to replace the missing button. The customer didn't have to wait around for a resolution from management, and the store clerk made the sale.
Set a limit on how far an employee can negotiate with a customer without management approval. Employees should be comfortable telling you what they did to correct a problem, and they should know to report incidents as they occur. If they are afraid of being reprimanded for giving discounts, they won't feel empowered.
An incident may occur with a customer who is angry and unwilling to accept a discount or other concession that an employee is trying to offer. His voice may get loud and he may start a scene, putting an employee in an uncomfortable position. If you or another manager are not available to rectify the situation, the employee may end up making a decision that you normally would not have approved in order to get the angry, screaming customer out of the building. If this happens, tell the employee that you understand her reasoning for doing what she did and that you support her decision. Give her some suggestions for how far she should have gone with her empowerment privileges and that will help guide her next time she is in the same situation. Again, don't put your employees in a situation where they are afraid to tell you what they had to do to calm an angry customer.