Helping Employees with Problem Resolution

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Emotion should not be a part of problem resolution. Data is key. Ask employees for facts—not feelings.

DOs and DON’Ts of Helping Employees with Problem Resolution

  • DO listen carefully to employees when they tell you about a problem. Employees will feel more respected if you pay attention to their explanations.
  • DON’T let employees go off on tangents or get lost in emotions. Try to keep narratives to key facts about the situation. Don’t allow yourself to become part of an unnecessarily dramatic situation.
  • DO ask questions. When problem-solving, you want to be making well-informed decisions.
  • DON’T ask leading questions. If employees suspect you are about to blame them for any challenges, their answers will become more defensive and less helpful.
  • DO involve employees in the problem-solving process. Ask for their suggestions and help them improve their conflict resolution skills.
  • DON’T forget to follow up with employees and find out whether the solutions effectively solved the problem or whether the situation still needs attention. 

DOs and DON’Ts of Problem Resolution

Something has gone wrong here—whether your product wasn’t right, your service wasn’t on time or the customer’s expectations were not fulfilled, you have to be ready to solve the problem for your customer. In order to win back the customer, you must have strong problem resolution skills. According to Gallup, the degree to which a guest was satisfied with the resolution of their problem was a huge factor in their overall engagement. Those who were “extremely satisfied” were twice as likely to be fully engaged with a brand as those who were anything less. Here are our DOs and DON’Ts of problem resolution to build your problem-solving toolbox.

DO be a good listener

You must give the client your undivided attention, truly understand the problem and recognize why it is upsetting. Always remember to look at the problem from your client’s perspective. Maybe it doesn’t bother you when a restaurant is out of a particular item, but it might be someone else’s hot button—but I only came here for the frozen hot chocolate, for example. If your customer is coming to you with a complaint—even if you don’t perceive anything is wrong or there’s been a misunderstanding—it’s up to you to make your customer happy and regain your customer’s trust and loyalty. Learn as much as you can about the customer and the situation so that you have enough information to not only solve the problem efficiently, but also to “wow” the customer for a strong finish.

DO apologize

This sounds simple, but it can be overlooked. As you listen to your customer speak about the issue at hand, you’ll have a better understanding of the nature of the problem and know specifically what you are apologizing for. This is key because you want to show you’re paying attention and that you can empathize. “I sincerely apologize, Mr. Smith, and I understand your frustration about the delay with your car repair and for the unexpected costs. I know you’re planning to go to your daughter’s soccer game. May we offer to provide you with a loaner to get you to the game or drive you there ourselves and bring the car when it is done?”

DON’T make the customer feel like an imposition

There will be times when you will be working with particularly difficult customers. Then there will be customers, for whatever reason, who are not actively difficult but who will require a little more time and effort than a typical client. With all of that said, there is no excuse to ever make a customer feel like he or she is an imposition. For example, if a client filled out a form incorrectly or accidentally selected the wrong option in an ordering process, reassure them that you will correct the issue and deliver the correct product and do so as quickly as possible. Of course, it can be frustrating for vendors to have to redo work that was triggered by customer error, but again, that is no reason to make customers feel badly in any way. This includes avoiding verbiage such as, “no problem.” By even using the word “problem” you suggest that the situation could be perceived as a problem, which is not the impression your client should have. “I am happy to assist you” or something along those lines is ideal as it is positive and demonstrates your ownership of the problem.

DO make every effort to give the customer a first-person problem resolution

Speaking of ownership, The Ritz-Carlton Service Values ensure that each of our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—pledges to “own and immediately resolve guest problems.” Take it on as if it were your own problem just like this Front Desk Agent at The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai, who went above and beyond to ensure a guest’s clothing was repaired in time for an important meeting. This story is exemplary not only because of the first-person problem resolution, but also because of its timeliness. More than 80% of customers cite speed of problem resolution as the most important factor in a good customer service experience (source). But what if you need help solving a problem? You may enlist the help of colleagues (especially if this means a faster resolution), but you should remain the single touch point throughout the entire problem resolution process if possible. Unfortunately, everyone can think of a time when they’ve tried to get a problem solved and have been passed from person to person. Do not make your customer feel like a “hot potato.” In the event that you absolutely must turn the problem  over to a colleague, always ensure the customer feels like you care and make the transition smooth by reassuring your customer: “I leave you in great hands with Alex,” for example.

DO keep the customer informed along the way

Thanks to your smartphone or device of choice, you have access to all sorts of detailed and up-to-date information at any time. With one touch, you can tell when your pizza is going out for delivery, the score of the game and when the rain is supposed to start. When your customers are already stressed or upset because of a time-consuming problem, it is up to you to provide updates that make them feel informed and reassured that you are working on the resolution. This is common courtesy and shows that you care. Even if things are not going well, for example the problem is worse than you initially thought, always be honest and empathetic as well as appreciative of your customer’s time. Certainly do not make promises you cannot keep as this will ultimately cause more frustration and damage to your relationship with your client.

Beyond Solving the Problem

At The Ritz-Carlton, part of our commitment to service is the “anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.” Sometimes those needs appear in the form of an issue that needs to be solved. You can fix a customer’s problem by listening and apologizing, or you can take it one step further by creating a memorable resolution that will help convince your customer to continue using your brand. While experiencing severe delays on the tarmac, a pilot decided to order pizza for the entire airplane (BBC)—definitely a memorable resolution. Never underestimate the power of simple thoughtfulness to secure your customer’s loyalty and put the frosting on the cake of a well-baked solution to their problem.

Significant Stat: Engagement when Problem was Resolved

“When customers are very satisfied with the way their problem was handled — regardless of whether the problem was resolved — slightly more of them are fully engaged (54%) than customers who did not encounter a problem (50%).” (source)

Advice from John Cashion, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Consumers judge the quality of any institution by the first person they come in contact with to discuss their problem. Furthermore, we know that it takes just five seconds for anyone to form a first impression…a first impression of a person and an organization. We represent our brands multiple times every day, and how we handle a customer’s problem—or opportunities as we call them, since we can always turn a situation around—is very important to overall customer engagement. More times than not when a customer is having a problem it’s really because no one is listening to them. Actively listening to our customers and ensuring we resolve the “opportunity” to their liking—not ours—will give us the best chance at securing their full engagement. With all of this being said, organizations need to empower their employees to resolve any opportunities that will occur. The moment you re-direct a customer, the resolution cost goes up and the likelihood that your customer will be fully engaged drops. 

Our Enrichment Courses immerse clients in The Ritz-Carlton ambience while offering philosophical and tactical service excellence knowledge. Please visit our Course Calendar to learn more about our upcoming courses and to register. 

Seven Advantages of Employee Empowerment

Did you know that bees are empowered workers? Dr. Michael O’Malley, author of The Wisdom of Bees, notes in his book that “The bees’ highly decentralized form of government allows the workers who are closest to the information to act upon it immediately and make the most informed decisions.” When empowerment is done correctly—in nature as well as in business—it produces an organized, efficient colony of activity and results.

The Ritz-Carlton empowers its employees—over 35,000 Ladies and Gentlemen—and this has resulted in a legacy of legendary service. The idea of empowerment may seem frightening at first, but here are seven clear advantages of employee empowerment:

1) Employees are more accountable

When employees are empowered, they have to accept responsibility. They can no longer claim, “that’s not my job.” They don’t have the luxury of shirking work because they’re autonomous. They have the resources and the authority to step up and take action.

2) Employees are more attentive

Because employees are empowered, they cannot be asleep at their posts. They must be ready and reactive because they are able to make a difference. Empowered employees can even be proactive and recognize when there are small issues that need to be solved. This prevents small issues from turning into big problems.

3) Employees will feel more valued

Empowering your employees shows that they are trusted. Employees who feel valued and trusted tend to be more engaged. Studies suggest that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. Engaged employees are more likely to use discretionary effort—to go above and beyond—to impact the customer experience.

4) Employees will be more invested in work

Empowered employees recognize that their decisions are contributing to the organization’s success and consequently, they care more about their work. Additionally, they can express initiative and creativity without asking permission from a superior, and this allows them to feel a pride of ownership in their work.

5) Problems are resolved faster

According to a survey commissioned by LivePerson, “82% of consumers say the number one factor that leads to a great customer service experience is having their issues resolved quickly.” When employees are not empowered, customers must work their way up the chain of command in order to get their problems resolved. Often times they have to wait while someone in a position of higher authority is located, and sometimes your upset customers must repeat their sad story to several people. Waiting and repetition do not lead to happy customers. Empowered employees can resolve issues immediately—eliminating the need for repetition and waiting.

6) Customers experience better service

As already noted, empowered employees tend to be more engaged, more proactive, more attentive to customers and more invested in their work. Is it any wonder that all of this leads to a better customer experience? When employees enjoy their work, they share that joy with their customers.

7) Organizations are more nimble

Empowered employees are attuned to your organization’s culture and recognize their role as brand ambassadors. Therefore, they care about representing your organization correctly. When your organization needs to make a shift, your empowered employees can help ensure that the change actually happens. Dr. O’Malley explains it this way: “organizations that push decision-making out into the field are more agile and responsive to changing circumstances.”

Organizations that want to embrace employee empowerment may want to begin by creating written empowerment guidelines. It’s also important to offer employees ongoing training so that they’re prepared and capable of resolving any customer issues. Truly empowering employees is granting them freedom to build genuine customer relationships and to create memorable moments for your customers. 

Enroll in “Excellence in the Patient Experience” to benchmark the business practices of The Ritz-Carlton and discover how a service excellence culture results in engaged employees and legendary service.

Significant Stat: Problem Resolution and Customer Experience

82% of consumers say the number one factor that leads to a great customer service experience is having their issues resolved quickly. (source)

Advice from John Cashion, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Customers want to be heard, and they want their issues to be resolved quickly. This is why The Ritz-Carlton empowers our employees, known as our Ladies and Gentlemen. Empowerment not only helps create employee engagement which then leads to customer engagement, but empowerment also enables our Ladies and Gentlemen to resolve issues immediately—without having to track down a supervisor or manager. Customers tend to judge the quality of the institution by the first person they come to with their problem—the link between problem resolution and customer experience is undeniable. If that employee is powerless to help, your customers will be forced to repeat their tale of woe to another employee. Each time your customers have to repeat their story, their level of frustration will escalate as well. By empowering employees, your organization can reduce the number of times customers are redirected and consequently, solve problems faster. 

Join us for a one-day symposium on November 12th. The day includes a Ritz-Carlton executive panel with Herve Humler, president & chief operations officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C.

DOs & DON’Ts of Setting Customer Expectations

Although every organization is striving to deliver perfect customer service, not all of your customer interactions will be home runs. Physician Brian Goldman points out in a TEDx Talk that a good batting average is .300—and that means a baseball player has only hit the ball three out of 10 times. A player who hits the ball four out of 10 times is considered legendary.

In customer service, when we swing and miss, it’s important to know how to quickly rectify the situation. One of the most important steps we can take is to set appropriate customer expectations, and this can begin before we even meet our customer. Every interaction with a customer—on a website, over the phone or in person—is an opportunity to set realistic expectations and prevent future disappointments. The following DO’s and DON’Ts share specific ways organizations can better manage customer expectations.

DO Value Your Customer’s Trust

When your customers are upset, their frustrations extend beyond a specific incident. They’re also upset because you have violated their trust. They may be saying to you, “I’m upset because you promised me a free toaster and instead you gave me a flashlight.” However, what they are really thinking is, “You’ve let me down, and I’m worried I won’t be able to continue trusting you.” Everyone in your organization must contribute to earning customer loyalty by endeavoring to establish and restore a customer’s faith in your services.

One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton states “I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.” Lifelong relationships tend to include an occasional disappointment. However, when relationships are built on a foundation of trust, you have more understanding and goodwill as you work through any difficulties. You want to do everything possible to earn and maintain your customers’ confidence, and managing customer expectations will help preserve trust.

DON’T Oversell Your Products or Services

Everyone wants to be the best. If you’re a diner, you may want to claim you serve the best waffles in the country—or even on the planet! The problem with claiming to be the best is that you immediately set yourself up for comparisons and disappointments. Your customers may try your waffles, and they may really like them. However, liking them is no longer enough. Your waffles have to be the best waffles in the world! Your customers will be dissatisfied if your waffles aren’t far and above any other waffles they’ve ever eaten. Are you losing customers by setting the bar too high? When you inflate customers’ expectations, you’re making it more difficult for your organization to achieve success.

DO Pay Special Attention to Time Frames

Organizations often make promises related to time. “Someone will be with you in a moment,” “You’ll have the shipment by Thursday,” or the ever-so-vague “This won’t take long at all.” When time is part of the expectation, you’re in greater danger of losing trust if you get it wrong. If that shipment does not arrive on Thursday, your customer will be understandably upset. Depending on how you handle the situation, you may lose the customer’s trust altogether. If your organization is proactive in their communication, quick to look for solutions and rectify any difficulties and is apologetic, then you have the opportunity to restore faith. However, if your organization fails to communicate with the customer and maintains an indifferent, “win some, lose some” attitude, you will most likely lose future business.

The healthcare industry has one of the toughest challenges in regard to setting time frames. Doctors and nurses are in a difficult position because patients—and their families—want to know when they can expect to be well. It’s important to give patients hope; however, because doctors and nurses are also dealing with people when they are the most vulnerable, it’s important not to set expectations too high. If patients think they can expect to be up and waltzing next week, it will be hugely disappointing if they’re still confined to a sickbed. Healthcare professionals risk not only losing the trust of their patients, but also diminishing the spirits of their patients and their families.

DON’T Make Impossible Promises

Sometimes organizations make promises that seem possible when they’re being concocted in a boardroom with a group of passionate and committed executives. However, your staff—the people who will be fulfilling the promises—must buy-in and agree on the feasibility of the promises as well. At The Ritz-Carlton, one of our Service Values ensures that our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—are “involved in the planning of the work that affects [them.]”

Your organization can make promises to your customer—as long as the promises are truly executable.  Back in the 1960s, Avis rental car launched the tagline and brand promise, “We try Harder.” They maintained that promise for five decades, and according to AdAge, the “campaign reversed the company’s fortunes, helping it to go from losing $3.2 million to turning a profit of $1.2 million for the first time in 13 years.”

DO Practice Seamless Communication

Customers may contact your organization through email, text, social media, phone or in person, and it is your organization’s responsibility to record and transmit any communications appropriately. Your customer does not realize the complexities of your organization. Your customers want to believe that they can send one communication, and they will be heard. That is their expectation.

When there are communication breakdowns, customers often become frustrated. Think about the customer who calls your establishment to make a special request and is told everything is set, but finds out later that the request was never passed along. Or the customer who finds a coupon for your store on the Web, but when the customer arrives at the store, he or she finds out that none of your employees know how to process the coupon. Worst of all is when a customer is handed-off from one employee to another and each employee tells the customer a different story.

When customers are forced to sort through confusion and have to fight to be heard, they will lose confidence and faith in your organization. If your customers must be handed-off to another employee or if customers will need to reiterate their needs to another department, be sure to communicate the process to your customers. Good communications can deflate frustration and is a cornerstone of trust.

Don’t Forget to Value Your Customers

Your customers have more power than ever. They can shop anywhere. Even if you’re the only retail store on an island, you’re still competing with E-tail. If your customers are unhappy with your product or service, they don’t just tell their neighbor or friends. They tell the Internet and share their opinion around the world. Your customers expect to be valued. They expect to be cared for. When they don’t feel appreciated, they can easily carry through on the threat, “I will take my business elsewhere!” If your organization isn’t willing to make extra efforts and show customers that they’re valued, your customers will probably find a competitor who is willing to earn their business. Again, small gestures can make a small impact. Saying “thank you” and “we appreciate your business” are easy, cost-free and express your gratitude.

Focusing on Expectations

It’s important to meet the expressed and unexpressed needs of your customers, but at the same time, make sure you set realistic expectations. If you’re resolving an issue, be sure you direct your customers through any process and communicate regularly, thanking them for their patience along the way. Building relationships with your customers and managing their expectations takes extra time and effort, but it is rewarded by positive word-of-mouth and customer 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.

Etiquette & Engagement: Calm

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman….

Engagement Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are calm when listening to others.

Unhappy customers or patients can display anger or other challenging behavior; however, ladies and gentlemen must remain calm and composed in order to maintain their credibility and discretion. True ladies and gentlemen will actively listen, stay in control and employ empathy—even when facing challenging behavior. As Stephen Covey said, really listening is like giving people “emotional oxygen.” The employees of The Ritz-Carlton—known as Ladies and Gentlemen—strive to listen carefully to guests and to each other. They listen for preferences; i.e., how does the guest take his/her coffee or does the guest like a specific snack. They can also improve their service by noting these guests’ preferences for future reference. When listening to a guest’s complaint, Ladies and Gentlemen are eager to own and immediately resolve the issue. However, they must remain calm as the guest explains their frustrations. Keeping a level head and actively listening to the guest supports our commitment to pride in our professionalism and engages our guests, even those who have experienced an unpleasant incident. 

The motto of The Ritz-Carlton is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto sets a tone of goodwill and grace for all.

Our Ladies and Gentlemen: Abner Nelms, The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead

Each month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee—also known as a Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton—in order to share an insider’s view of the organization. This month’s interview is with Abner Nelms, 34-year veteran Doorman and Driver at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta.

RCLC: Please talk a little about your role with our organization and how long you’ve been with The Ritz-Carlton.

Mr. Nelms: I have been at The Ritz-Carlton since January 1984—that’s over 31 years. I work in guest services and have for my whole career here. I’ve worked inside as a bellman, but most of my career was working as a doorman up front. Most recently, in addition to working as a doorman, I’ve worked as a driver.

RCLC: Can you share why you’ve chosen to work at The Ritz-Carlton for so long? What do you enjoy about working here?

Mr. Nelms: Well, there are a lot of things I enjoy about working here! If I go back in time, I was one of the first people to be hired. The neat thing about our property is that it’s the first Ritz-Carlton to open in the modern brand—so it was really an honor and it was exciting. It’s good to be part of the beginning of something—especially something that’s so successful because back then, we only had two hotels in the whole company. At that time, I had worked for other hotel properties, small properties, but you know when The Ritz-Carlton came along, it was like something I had always dreamed of working for—a real, “first class,” luxury hotel. So I think I was just at the right place at the right time. Other opportunities have come up, but when you’re working for the best hotel company in the business at that time, probably in the world, I never thought about leaving—at least not to go to work for another hotel.

RCLC: What do you value about the culture of The Ritz-Carlton?

Mr. Nelms: I would have to say that all the things that the company has put in place: Gold Standards, all our Service Values and everything. I was in my thirties when I started working for the company, and I’m in my sixties now. When I think back, I see that the culture has taught us how to be gentlemen, how to behave.

RCLC: What does customer service mean to you?

Mr. Nelms: What does customer service mean? Wow, it means a lot of things! I feel that customer service is serving a customer or guest in the manner that they want to be served, that they want to be taken care of. I say that because I have been in some customer service situations where it didn’t go well, and when you’re in a customer service business, you’re well aware of when you’re not getting good customer service. Right? So that’s what it means—taking care of a customer the way they want to be taken care of.

RCLC: Have you built relationships with customers throughout the years?

Mr. Nelms: Most definitely! At The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, we’ve been there so long, not only have we built long-term relationships with the guests, but we’ve built long-term relationships with their children. Sometimes I’ll see a long-term guest that is arriving and being taken care of and the person that is taking care of them might not recognize them, and then they’ll ask them a question like “have you ever stayed here before?” and if I get the chance, I’ll always go over and greet them myself, recognize them and then introduce them to the employee that doesn’t recognize them. I kind of tease them, and I introduce them as a “Charter Member.” “Oh yeah, Mr. Johnson, he’s a Charter Member, he’s part of the beginning!” We do have a lot of guests that have been staying with us for the entire time. It’s always fun because it gives me the opportunity to connect with that guest, that long-term guest.

RCLC: Are there any memorable customer experiences (WOW moments) that you would like to share?

Mr. Nelms: There are so many! Immediately when I think about WOW stories, I feel like I’m the one that was probably WOWed by the person I was taking care of. One moment comes to mind: a lot of people who come to our hotel are here on business, and they never get a chance to really get outside of the Buckhead area. Sometimes they think that that’s all Atlanta, right? Just that concrete area. We have the Atlanta History Center and that brings people to Buckhead, so these guests I was driving did break away long enough to go see the History Center. On the way back, I said to them “if you have a moment, I’ll take a little scenic route that will take us back to the hotel. It will only take us 10-15 minutes,” they wanted to do that—so I showed them the neighborhood that they never had a chance to see. They talked about it, and they were so excited because they had read about it in books and saw pictures in magazines. We have an area, the West Paces Ferry area, where our Governor’s Mansion is, as well as a lot of antebellum homes and properties with rolling hills and magnolia trees. There’s a particular mansion where parts of Gone with the Wind were filmed. I was just amazed at how excited they were about it. So it really made me feel good, and they didn’t even really know about that part of our town—so that’s probably the most memorable. I enjoy doing that, introducing people to things like The Swann House, the most photographed house in Atlanta. I think I was just as WOWed as they were. They WOWed me!

RCLC: Have you had to deal with upset customers? If so, any advice on the best way to handle this?

Mr. Nelms: Like we were saying about what customer service means, the best way to handle an upset guest is first of all to listen, empathize and see what their problem is. Especially to listen, you have to let them vent, let them get it all out and then be thinking, anticipating, what you can do to help. Then I will ask them, “what can I do to help in this situation?” I’ve been in that situation before, and fortunately, I’ve had the resources to help people. We’ve had situations when people’s limousine transportation didn’t show up, and they were stressed out so we were able to put them in our vehicle and take them to their appointment—even though it was outside of the usual area where we typically go. They’re always wild about that.

RCLC: What are a few of the customer service lessons you’ve learned over the last three decades?

Mr. Nelms: You have to listen to people—listen to them and remain pleasant. Don’t allow yourself to get upset since a lot of times we deal with so many different kinds of personalities. Sometimes when people are upset, they want you to get upset. That’s the most important thing I have learned to do is to listen and then be thinking how you can assist them. “What can I do to make this better?” That’s what people want to hear in a customer service situation. 

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.

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.

Inspired Thinking – Your Customers’ Shoes

“It is so much easier to be nice, to be respectful, to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to understand how you might help them before they ask for help, than it is to try to mend a broken customer relationship.” – Mark Cuban, American businessman and owner of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:
It is important for customer service professionals to express empathy—to see the customer’s perspective. The credo of The Ritz-Carlton states that we will fulfill “even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” You can detect unexpressed needs by listening to your customer and also looking for clues. And if you empower your customer service agents, you give them the ability to not only recognize unexpressed needs, but to address them immediately.