A Question of Ownership

Imagine entering your hotel room and, instead of experiencing a pleasantly cool atmosphere, you find yourself in a 40°C ‘oven’.

Imagine entering your hotel room and, instead of experiencing a pleasantly cool atmosphere, you find yourself in a 40°C ‘oven’. To make things even worse, you are unable to change the temperature. 

That’s exactly what happened to me recently when I walked into my room in my favourite hotel in Athens. Without a second thought, I made my way back downstairs to reception to report the situation in the hope of resolving the problem as quickly as possible. 

The porter, who was standing next to the reception desk, noticed my distress and offered to help. I immediately told him about my room. Little did I know that what happened next would not only lead to this blog post but would also remind me of one of my favourite customer care sayings: First, own the problem and then solve it. 

Watch the video to find out:

These are 3 lessons on customer service that you could take away from my experience:

  1. Empower your employees to take ownership of a customer's problem and find solutions independently

    This particular porter didn’t start his spiel – as 99% of porters in almost any hotel on the planet would have done – by saying something along the lines of “Let me inform the maintenance department,”, or “Sorry sir. I’ll ask them to get it fixed,” or “This is not part of my duties. Please let the receptionist know and she will inform the maintenance department.” Instead, this man knew instinctively that when a hotel guest encounters any kind of difficulty, he needs to take responsibility for it – to ‘own’ it – and then begin the process of resolving it.

    His exact words (to me) were these: “I am sorry, sir. Within the hour I will make sure that it’s been resolved. We’ll have your room cooled and ready for you to occupy. Leave it to me. You don’t need to wait in line.”

  2. Maintaining trust and offering a satisfactory solution will add to your company's bottom line 

    It is not for nothing that Ritz Carlton hotels empower their people (from porters to Managers) and authorize up to $2,000 per case, per employee to resolve a guest’s complaint or problem, with no questions about how the money was spent (wisely or not). 

    It has been estimated that most people will spend about US$100,000 on travel and accommodation in their lifetime, which puts that sum of US$2,000 in perspective. In the case of Ritz Carlton hotels, it is a tiny amount to spend to keep a guest coming back and remaining loyal to their brand and/or particular hotel. 

  3. A happy, loyal customer is a repeat customer

    My Greek porter has almost certainly never worked at the Ritz Carlton but he certainly knows a thing or two about retaining a customer and about customer loyalty. He ensured that I would remain a satisfied and loyal guest, even before my problem had been solved.

    How? By convincing me with his body language, eye-contact, demeanour and choice of words that my problem was actually not mine at all – it was his alone. 

    Needless to say, my room was kept beautifully cool for the entire duration of my stay.

    You won’t be surprised to know that, on 5 August, I will be back at the same hotel with my family. 



How are you empowering your employees to take ownership of customer problems or complaints and solve them independently?