#1 Ritz Carlton Customer Service Lesson When Things Go Wrong

customer service

We all make mistakes, right? Just ask my wife! The key is learning from them both personally and professionally.

Now, let’s talk about our dental practice. I know that you strive to do your best to give patients the best result and experience possible. That’s why we went to dental school. Even though we try our hardest, mistakes are inevitable. Our staff included.

Top companies known for their “customer service” such as the Ritz Carlton, Disney, Zappo’s, Nordstrom’s, etc also know that their employees are going to make mistakes but they take a different approach on how they handle it.

They take action to correct them IMMEDIATELY.

Here’s an example that we experienced during a recent family ski vacation…

Beaver Creek

We traveled to beautiful Beaver Creek Colorado during Christmas. There are three mountains to ski: Beaver Creek, Bachelor’s Gulch, and Arrowhead. There’s also a Ritz Carlton hotel that we love to visit located midway up on Bachelor’s Gulch Mountain.

Zach’s Cabin

Zach’s Cabin is a fantastic restaurant located further up the mountain. We decided that we wanted to go one night and inquired about reservations. The earliest available was 8:00 PM which was a bit too late for a family with two hungry boys. I informed the employee on the “concierge level” that I’d be back the following morning to make a new reservation.

The following morning, I asked again about making reservations and they informed me that they had one for 6:15 PM.


He then said that typically Zach’s needed a credit card to hold the reservation but that he’d “take care of it.”

Sleigh Ride

Fast forward to that evening.

In order to get to Zach’s, you have to take a sleigh that is provided by the restaurant via a snow cat. A snow cat is a machine that is used by ski resorts to groom the slopes typically at night. Another cool feature is that upon entering the restaurant, you’re given a pair of wool-lined crocs to wear during dinner.

Later that evening, we went downstairs to the lobby to check in for our sleigh ride. Kids typically love it but adults aren’t too keen because it’s usually freezing! After giving the hostess our name, she told me that she didn’t have any reservations under that name but they could see me at 8:15.

I bet you can see where this is going….

The Mistake

Because our reservation was supposed to be early that night, we had to plan our day to get off the slopes and get ready in order to make it. As you can imagine, my blood pressure went up a notch or two when I realized the reservation wasn’t made.

I went back up to the “Concierge level” to see what could be done about the situation. The original employee I spoke with took 100% of the blame.

He said, “Dr. Anzalone, I originally told you that I’d take care of the reservation and that you didn’t need a credit card to hold it. I wrote myself a note but failed to follow up with it. It was totally my fault.”

The next thing out of his mouth actually impressed me. He asked, “What can we do to make this right?

How Do You Handle Problems?

I remember reading somewhere that the Ritz Carlton hotels will actually allow their employees to spend up to $2,000 of the hotel’s money in order to correct a problem on the spot. To me that’s impressive. They realize that when they screw up, and everyone does at some point, then it’s “OK” to do whatever it takes to resolve the situation.

Do you have a recovery plan like that in your practice? If not, you may want to consider implanting one soon.

Let’s get back to our original story….

How Can We Help?

We left off with the employee wanting to know what he could do to make things right. He offered to make another earlier reservation for the next night or we could go later that evening. Because we were leaving the next day and didn’t want to wait any longer to eat, we decided  to take him up on eating at their signature restaurant, Wyld. He personally walked us downstairs, explained to the restaurant hostess what had happened and that they were going to “take care of” everything.

Wyld Restaurant

The meal was outstanding. My youngest son was excited that he was able to order off the “adult” menu and couldn’t believe his steak cost $74!

I must admit, the best part didn’t happen until the end….dessert. The chef made four individual desserts for each family member that was out of this world.

Between the wait staff’s customer service and food quality, to say they went above and beyond to cover their mistake would be an understatement.

But wait, there’s more!

The Finishing Touch

After our meal, we got back to our room and surprised to see a bagful of gifts and a personalized, hand written note: Not only did they cover our meal that night, but they offered to cover our meal next year when we return at Zach’s Cabin. Talk about owning up for their mess up!

There was also a bag of gifts for each family member as well. My two boys and I received hats and my wife got a make up bag and candle.

Now, at this point, I started to feel a bit guilty.

You see, Zach’s Cabin was in no way affiliated with the hotel. They had to come out of their own pocket to cover these expenses.

It’s Our Policy

How do you allow you team to handle problems? I first found out about how we were handling them by listening to a call recording during a team training session. One of my team members told a caller that “It was our policy….” to do whatever they were discussing.

Yikes! There’s nothing worse to me than a business/practice telling a customer/patient that they do what they do because of a “policy.”

If you’re not sure how your team is handling hiccups, now’s the time to put that into motion.

A great place to start would be the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center.

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