A wee little customer service secret from the Ritz-Carlton

Most businesses have no idea — no idea! — the extent to which they can improve customer perceptions by getting the little things right.  (You’re likely doing the big things right, anyway–as, unfortunately, are your competitors–so the little things are where the opportunity is.)

Here’s one of those little things you can nail, if you know the secret: When your customers ask you for directions, follow the lead of the Ritz-Carlton.

Here, specifically, is the secret: Show, don’t tell (and don’t ever point).  Don’t give customers verbal directions. Getting directions in words is confusing and hard to remember. It unsettles people. When a customer asks how to get somewhere, physically lead the customer there.

Professional Business Keynote Speaker Micah Solomon: conference speaker

The private-jet-setters who stay in a Ritz-Carlton hotel or resort require a restroom about as often as the rest of us. And, if a guest asks where the nearest facility is, the well-trained employees of the Ritz won’t point in the restroom’s general direction and make the guest memorize some complex list of turns. Instead, the hotel employee will walk with the guest until the last turn, then backing away for discretion. Or, as the Ritz-Carlton service standard spells it out: ‘‘Escort guests rather than pointing out directions to another area of the Hotel.’’

This dictum has spread to other top service establishments. According to Phoebe Damrosch, formerly of Thomas Keller’s four-star restaurant Per Se, Rule 20 in Keller’s guidelines is ‘‘When asked, guide guests to the bathroom instead of pointing.’’ (Phoebe also mentions a side effect that can occur from time to time: Some of the male diners, she says, seemed confused, perhaps mistakenly thinking that she planned to accompany them in and help. ‘‘The eighteen percent you will leave me, sir, I always wanted to say, would not cover that.’’)

P.S.  If you don’t have onsite customers (“guests,’ as the Ritz-Carlton calls them), this principle is just as valid. Offering visual guidance via YouTube and even video chat can be a huge help in “guiding” your customers to where they need to go, in purchasing and using your product or service offering.

2 Free Chapters: High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service

Micah Solomon, author of “High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service“, is the business keynote speaker, author, and customer service consultant termed by the Financial Post ”a new guru of customer service excellence.” Solomon offers speaking and consulting on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture — and how they fit into today’s marketing and technology landscape. An entrepreneur and business leader, he previously coauthored the bestselling “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit“.


See Micah in action — including video and free resources — at https://micahsolomon.com. Or, click here for your own free chapter  of Micah’s new book,  High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service (AMACOM Books) and Micah’s #1 bestseller, Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization———————————————————–

“Micah Solomon conveys an up-to-the minute and deeply practical take on customer service, business success, and the twin importance of people and technology.” –Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder

Portions of this post may have appeared in Micah’s previously published work.

1 thought on “A wee little customer service secret from the Ritz-Carlton”

  1. Thanks for sharing this tip Micah and you’re absolutely correct that even though there’s no physical “guest” online, their is a person on the other end who does have a question.

    For instance, we sometimes receive support questions like “How do I check my profile score?” Rather than offering “Click on PROFILE and select Profile Score from the drop-down” as our answer, our policy is to use both a breadcrumb representation (i.e. PROFILE –> Profile Score) but more importantly, we include screenshots with links outlined in red to offer a visual representation.
    I had only seen this this from a couple of companies over the years but the impression of “user-friendliness” it left on me was significant.

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