Customer Service Problem Resolution

Problem resolution is an art that requires grace, finesse, patience and practice — and the single best way to help customers when they experience a problem is to ensure that the issue is taken care of by the first point of contact. Even when a customer is really upset, the best action you can take is to personally handle the problem for the customer. Customers do not want to repeat their tale of woe over and over. When this happens, the original problem becomes magnified and a customer’s frustration level grows as well.

At The Ritz-Carlton, Service Value 6 states, “I own and immediately resolve guest problems.” Our research indicates that the number of people it takes to resolve a problem directly affects the level of customer engagement. The more people that have to get involved, the lower the engagement score. According to a survey cited by LivePerson, “getting an issue resolved quickly was by far the most critical factor (82%)” for a positive customer experience and “having the issue resolved in a single interaction is key (56%)” as well.

In the Guest Story below, the Front Desk Agent not only detects the guest’s problem, but takes ownership and goes above and beyond to resolve the issue for the guest.

Guest Story of Customer Service Problem Resolution 

A frequent business guest of The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai arrived to check in late at night. The Front Desk Agent had engaged with the guest many times before during his past visits and noticed right away that the guest seemed anxious and distressed. In addition, the guest — who was always impeccably dressed in a business suit — was wearing very casual Hawaiian-style shorts.

The Front Desk Agent engaged the guest in conversation to see if he might be able to uncover the reason behind the surprising change in the guest’s attire. The guest told the Front Desk Agent that the pants to his business suit had been ripped by a chair in the airport, and he had to purchase something else to wear from one of the tourist shops. The guest was distressed because he did not have another pair of pants to match his suit, and he had an important meeting the next day at 10 a.m.

Hearing of the guest’s problem, the Front Desk Agent immediately decided to help the guest, and offered to have the pants repaired that night. The Front Desk Agent took the pants to the night shift Ladies and Gentlemen in housekeeping, but despite their efforts, the tear could not be mended due to its size. At this point, it was already 1:30 in the morning, and The Front Desk Agent knew the nearby mall would not open until 10 the next morning — the exact time the guest’s meeting was set to begin.

Applying Discretionary Effort

With Service Value 6 in mind, the Front Desk Agent wanted to see this through and resolve the problem for the guest. He took the pants home with him that night, and after only a few hours’ sleep, woke up early and headed to an area in Shanghai that housed several small fashion markets. In the early morning, he searched through the many stores until he found a pair of pants in the guest’s size that matched almost exactly. After making the purchase, The Front Desk Agent rushed back to The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai and delivered the new pants to the guest in time for his meeting.

The guest was very impressed that The Front Desk Agent had been able find a replacement for his clothing in just the space of a few nighttime hours. In a thank you letter to The Front Desk Agent, the guest said that this was his “most memorable experience in the global hospitality industry.”

This guest story shows that when you own and immediately resolve problems, you can transform a disappointing customer experience into a moment where you delight and amaze your customer. And when you successfully turn a problematic situation around, you increase your level of customer engagement. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.