Guest Story: Expressed and Unexpressed Needs

To provide excellent customer service, your organization must meet and exceed the expressed and unexpressed needs of your customers or patients. Meeting the expressed needs of customers or patients seems rather straightforward. For example, a hotel guest might ask for an extra pillow or a wake-up call. It isn’t difficult to fulfill requests like those, but sometimes—like the example below—your customer or patient may have needs that are more complex.

Meeting Expressed Needs

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami recently had a guest with severe food allergies. The mom sent the following letter to the property after their visit.

“Our older son, 18, has severe food allergies. Prior to our visit, we exchanged emails and spoke with the Executive Chef. The Executive Chef asked questions about my son’s food preferences as well as special brands of foods that are safe for him. The chef team outdid themselves and made our trip the best vacation ever!!

“Upon our arrival, the chef team was ready for us and already had plans for my son’s breakfast and other meals. They made pancakes for him (which is a huge treat for him since making pancakes without eggs or milk is no easy feat). During our stay, my son was able to order a variety of creative and healthy meals, including a ‘real’ pizza (sans cheese) for the first time in his life! Our whole family enjoyed the club’s and restaurant’s food, and we were able to relax, knowing that our son’s food was safely prepared.”

Meeting Unexpressed Needs

Meeting the unexpressed needs of customers or patients takes a little detective work. Your employees must be on the lookout for clues about customers’ preferences. In the following guest story, the In-Room Dining Attendant didn’t simply pick up the dirty dishes. He paid attention to details and discovered a way to make the guest’s experience more enjoyable. He had his radar on and antenna up.

A guest at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha was celebrating his birthday on the second night of his stay at the hotel. The Guest Relations team decided to arrange a beautiful cake and card to be sent up to his room. Later that evening, the In-Room Dining Attendant went to deliver orange juice the guest had requested. Noticing that the guest had only eaten the blueberries off the top of the cake, the In-Room Dining Attendant asked the guest if there had been any problem with the surprise. While the guest was appreciative of the gesture, he explained to the In-Room Dining Attendant that he was very health conscious and careful about what he eats.

The In-Room Dining Attendant immediately returned to the kitchen and asked the Chef to prepare a sliced fruit platter featuring berries and seasonal fruits, as well as a jar of freshly squeezed orange juice. The In-Room Dining Attendant and several other Ladies and Gentlemen delivered the beautiful platter to the guest’s room, along with a card signed by the entire In-Room Dining team. The guest was very pleased by the surprise and thanked them graciously.

However, the In-Room Dining Attendant was not finished with his exceptional service to this guest. He requested the Pastry Chef bake bran muffins to include in the guest’s breakfast each morning, and informed the team of the guest’s preference for health-conscious foods. This ensured that each time the guest would order food, the team knew to offer healthy alternatives such as green salad rather than the dish’s usual side of french fries.

When the guest departed, he thanked each of the Ladies and Gentlemen he had interacted with during his stay.

Making Service Memorable

Service excellence happens when your employees are encouraged and willing to make extra efforts for your customers and patients. Meeting the needs of your customers and patients is a good first step. However, exceeding the expectations of your customers and patients results in personal, memorable service that builds brand loyalty. 

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.