Make Customer Breakdowns into Breakthroughs – How to Embrace Service Shortcomings


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Let’s assume you are using a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Other than demographic data and notes gathered as the customer moves through the sales funnel, what information are you capturing from sale to repurchase?

Hopefully, you are removing friction and personalizing experiences by collecting customer preferences (more on that in a future newsletter) and recording service breakdowns.

Since the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company does an extraordinary job of collecting service errors and uses that information to improve customer experience, I’ll excerpt from my book about the company titled, The New Gold Standard to provide four lessons for turning breakdowns into breakthroughs.

1) Explain “What and Why” Breakdowns Should Be Recorded – The Ladies and Gentlemen of Ritz Carlton (the phrase used for team members) are urged to immediately track the presence of MR. BIV – an acronym for Mistakes, Rework, Breakdowns, Inefficiencies, and Variations. According to Diana Oreck, then Vice President of Global Learning and the Leadership Center,

MR. BIV has brought us to the point where we honor defects. We believe there is a need to learn from each imperfection. We want people to report the breakdowns so we can build solutions to remove them from our hotels, not just sweep them under a rug. So MR. BIV has been a real way to take the stigma out of complaints and help us reliably track defects to make the necessary corrections.

2) Communicate Breakdowns Widely – In addition to registering “opportunities,” as they are called in the Mystique system, incidents of MR. BIV logged in the database the night before are typically shared in the next lineup (a daily group meeting). Ritz-Carlton leaders discuss breakdowns openly so Ladies and Gentlemen can go out of their way to ensure a specific problem doesn’t resurface for the same guest during their stay and, in the process, help regain that guest’s trust.

3) Use Collected Data to Anticipate and Avoid Future Breakdowns – The additional benefit of maintaining a database of breakdowns is that it affords opportunities to be proactive so that processes can be modified and training can be delivered. According to Simon Cooper, then CEO of the Ritz-Carlton,

Accurate collection of breakdowns, swift analysis of trends, and resolution of process problems is fundamental for us to be in a position to give a guest a Wow experience. A huge chasm occurs when a guest comes in and does not have a good arrival process . . . or goes to the room and finds the drawer in the dresser wasn’t emptied from the last guest . . . When these breakdowns occur, it is hard to get to a place where we’re going to have an engaged guest. The only way across the chasm over the long term is to know what goes wrong and train people how to circumvent the breakdown in the first place.

Guests at The Ritz-Carlton are like your customers. They expect excellent assessment and eradication of errors. It’s hard to get to a positive emotional connection with customers if those fundamentals are not satisfied. Meeting those fundamentals occurs only when staff members own the responsibility for reliably recording incidents.

4) Encourage Swift Resolution – Much of the focus by Ritz-Carlton on tracking service breakdowns emerged from early leaders who studied defect management processes in the manufacturing sector. This analysis of manufacturers helped leadership at Ritz-Carlton appreciate that the longer defects went undetected, the more expensive the defects were to repair. Additionally, the longer a defect remains in place, the more that defect causes other errors.

Most of us have heard Alexander Pope’s observation, “To Err is Human to Forgive is Divine.” Pope’s quote derives from a poem by Thomas Jones – which has far greater relevance to customer experience management. Jones wrote:

“To err, is human; to recover, is Angelical; to persevere is Diabolical.”

Our goal in customer experience delivery should be to recover from errors, not have them persevere.

To learn more about ways to turn breakdowns into breakthroughs, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


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