Guest Story: Commitment to Wow Moments

Have you ever written a thank you card to someone but then forgotten to mail it? For those of us who are postally challenged, this scenario might happen more often than we’d like to admit. We have the desire to do something nice, but we don’t quite have the follow-through. We begin calculating our tardiness and wondering if we’ve crossed an imaginary deadline that prevents us from following through with our good intentions. We may even give up and try to console ourselves with that old adage, “It’s the thought that counts.”

In customer service, your good thought does not count unless it includes action. Can you imagine approaching a customer and explaining that you thought about doing something nice but it didn’t happen? What customer would be wowed by that? If you want to create true wow moments for your customers, you will need to follow through and sometimes it takes more effort than originally expected. The guest story below is one example of the commitment it can take to get to “Wow.”

A Mutual Appreciation for Sake

A guest was staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, and she chose to dine in the hotel at the tempura counter in the Japanese restaurant, Tempura Mizuki. While serving the guest Japanese rice wine, the Manager of Mizuki engaged the guest in conversation and discovered her interest in the varieties of modern rice wines in Japan. The Manager of Mizuki took the guest on a beverage journey during the course of her meal, explaining different styles of sake and providing small tasting portions of each to make her dining experience more memorable.

The guest enjoyed the experience. She told the Manager of Mizuki that she was a travel journalist and intended to use some of his information in her next project. Then, she showed him a picture of a unique sake that she had tried on a prior visit to Japan. She mentioned how she wished she could find a bottle to take home with her to the United States.

The “Almost Impossible” Sake Search

The Manager of Mizuki offered to call sake stores in the city to try and find a bottle of that specific sake. However, when he began calling stores, he found out that the sake was no longer being produced—making it exceptionally rare. Every place he called was sold out of it. The guest’s time at the hotel went by quickly, and she returned to the United States. However, the Manager of Mizuki was determined not to give up and contacted the Purchasing Manager for assistance.

The Purchasing Manager contacted the hotel’s usual suppliers only to discover the same dilemma as the Manager of Mizuki. However, the Purchasing Manager went one step further and called the brewery directly, explaining the situation and checking if they had any bottles of the sake left. To his delight, the brewery did have some, and he quickly struck a deal to have a bottle sold to the hotel.

The Manager of Mizuki then contacted the guest to inform her that he had finally found a bottle after looking for over a week. He shipped the bottle to her, along with some traditional Japanese sake cups and a warm message. The guest was so happy to hear the news, mentioning that she could not wait to come see the Manager of Mizuki on her next visit to Kyoto.

The Rewards of Reaching “Wow”

After the guest checked out of the hotel, it would have been tempting to give up the search for the elusive sake. Why bother at this point? The guest had checked out and was no longer a customer, right? However, the Manager of Mizuki didn’t give up. He did the opposite—he escalated his efforts and involved a colleague. Why make that kind of effort for a guest who had left the building? One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton states, “I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.” The Manager of Mizuki had genuinely engaged with the guest and wanted to honor their relationship by following through. Imagine the surprise and delight of the guest when the package arrived at her home in the U.S. with the bottle of sake and the Japanese sake cups. The “Wow” moment didn’t happen in the expected time frame, but the fact that the Manager of Mizuki didn’t abandon his quest probably made the gesture even more of a “Wow”—and certainly, a memorable customer experience. 

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.