Teachable Moment: Hunt for Help


A gentleman went to a department store to return some merchandise. He walked up to two sales clerks standing at a register, and they told him they could only help him if he were going to buy sunglasses. They then told him to go to the front of the store. He found another sales clerk at the front of the store, and she said he could only return merchandise to the left side of the store. He walked to the left side of the store to hunt for help and could not find any sales clerks. He tried standing in the middle of the aisle and yelling for help, but no one responded. He finally saw a lady looking through the sales rack. He was concerned at first that she was a customer, but it turned out she worked at the store and was able to return the merchandise for him.


  • It only took five minutes for the sales clerk to return the merchandise for the customer, but it took 15 minutes for the customer to find a sales clerk to help him. Delivering speedy service is great—but you should make it easy for your customers to get service in the first place.
  • To offer service excellence, you should not just point a customer in some vague direction. You should offer to escort the customer to the right place, or at least have helpful signage so that the customer does not get lost in your facilities.
  • The customer spoke to three sales clerks before someone agreed to help him. One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton states, “I own and immediately resolve guest problems.” If the first sales clerk was truly unable to help, she could still have “owned” the problem by introducing the gentleman to a sales clerk who could help him.