A case of the shitz at The Ritz


After attending the always amazing NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) Gala at The Ritz-Carlton recently, 20+ cadre members and I headed to the bar to take in the third period of the Caps/Rangers hockey game. Many of us are huge fans and were excited to extend the night watching our favorite team.

The game went into overtime and during intermission, we started to notice a brown liquid dripping from the ceiling close to where we were gathered. We initially laughed about it as the staff placed a bucket under the leakage. However, the situation got much worse. As the drip turned into a steady flow, they replaced the bucket with a large trash can and a foul odor ensued. The liquid was what we thought it was: a septic tank had burst.

Despite this unpleasantness, overtime was about to begin, we all had full glasses and really didn’t want to go anywhere. Fortunately, the staff at The Ritz responded quickly. The bartenders let us know that drinks were on the house, and several other employees got involved. The manager had her team bring in flowers from the lobby and light candles to help offset the stench. It took about 30 minutes, but they fixed the problem and during this time they provided complimentary drinks for 20+ people while constantly engaging us.

As I watched the large number of employees respond to the situation, it occurred to me that there was no way they could have been prepared for this. Surely, The Ritz did not cover this scenario in any training session. However, The Ritz is known for great customer service and delivering great customer service depends on having great people who can respond effectively to ANY situation on the fly.

Let’s face it: s#%+ happens (ba-da-bum!), and it’s all about how you respond to it. The Ritz-Carlton, on this night, did an amazing job! You can have the best product/service/systems in the world, but if you do not have the right people on your team, they won’t mean a thing.

This incident reminded me of why Zappos is so successful. They do not measure their employees’ effectiveness by the length of their calls, and they do not use scripts. They simply tell their employees to do whatever is necessary to solve their customers’ problems. As with The Ritz-Carlton, the top priority is making their customers happy, no matter what arises. Kudos to The Ritz in Washington, DC for doing what The Ritz-Carlton is known for and truly delivering on its brand promise.

Have you had an interesting experience in which a business either succeeded or failed when a completely random situation presented itself? Was there a time when your company saved the day after making an unintentional mess? I’d love to hear your story!


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  1. by Roberta on May 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    You would be surprised at the planning some organizations do to prepare for contingencies. That said..I’m sure dripping sewage wasn’t addressed specifically in a plan, but was covered under another heading. And I’ll bet their plans all begin with “first make sure guests are safe, second attend to guests”.

    Contingency Planner

  2. by Derek on May 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks Roberta- I learned more about their approach here: http://gmj.gallup.com/content/24871/how-ritzcarlton-reinventing-itself.aspx
    They recognize that they can’t plan for everything, but have a plan for that. 🙂

  3. by Steve Dorfman on May 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Great story, Derek. It begins by hiring people who have customer service in their “DNA.”

  4. by Derek on May 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks Steve- Agreed! Per the link in my above comment, they refer to their employees as “ladies and gentlemen” and there is a high level of mutual respect.

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