Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

The Art of Recovery

Recently I was in Chicago speaking for Salomon Smith Barney where I met Kevin Green, one of their top financial consultants.  He shared a story that makes the point that great service can be one of your best sales tools.

Not long ago Kevin was at a black-tie wedding at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton hotel in Chicago. A server came by with a special sauce for the entrée and accidentally spilled it on one of the guests at the table.

The sauce was hot, so the first thing the server did was ask the guest, “Are you okay?” Fortunately he was.  The server then asked the guest to remove his jacket and promised him that he could have it cleaned in less than 30 minutes.  The gentleman removed his coat and made a joke with the server that it better not take 31 minutes.  About twenty minutes later the server returned the coat without a trace of sauce.  Everyone at the table was impressed.

The server was well trained, not only in delivering great service, but also in the “Art of Recovery.”  There was a problem, and he knew how to fix it.  First he made sure the guest was okay.  Then he took care of the jacket.  The Ritz had dry cleaning equipment on the premises, so it was a simple matter of taking the soiled jacket downstairs to be cleaned.

“No big deal,” you might say.  As Paul Harvey says, “Here is the rest of the story.”

Our guest with the soiled tuxedo has three daughters.  Two of them are getting married in the next couple of years.  The server didn’t know this, and it really didn’t matter.  He was just doing his job.  And, I’m sure you can guess where they are getting married.  The Ritz!

Why?  The answer is easy: unbelievable service.  The Ritz is known for being first class.  But not only do they have great banquets, great food, great rooms – and more – they also can be counted on to do the right thing when there is a problem.  A salesman didn’t close the deal.  A server did – just by doing what he was supposed to do.  As they say in their mission statement, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentleman.”  Yes, the Ritz is a classy place, and they know how to take care of their guests.

The message is clear.  You don’t have to be in sales to make a sale.  No matter what you do, provide great service.  It not only keeps customers, it helps makes sales!


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