A recent breakfast meeting at Panera Bread made me remember once again the key to great customer service. Taking Responsibility.

Yes, you should have a good product, and good systems, and good value pricing. But all of that adds up to naught if your people don’t take responsibility for delivering great service. Especially when mistakes are made.

That morning, my meeting partner didn’t get his bagel toasted as he had asked for. He was going to overlook it. It wasn’t that important. But when waitress came back with the cream for the coffee she noticed that it wasn’t made to order. She picked it up and took it to the toaster and fixed it. Didn’t hand it off to anyone else, she took ownership and just solved it. Brad was much happier.

I’m hoping she also figured out why it was missed in the first place and took some systemic corrective action as well. But that is less important than taking ownership of the problem.

Ever wonder how such great customer service is delivered at the Ritz Carlton? They have a rule there. Whoever discovers a problem or poor service, also owns the problem or poor service until it’s fixed and the customer is happy. So the chambermaid, or waiter, or switchboard person stays in the loop until satisfaction is accomplished. They may not even be involved in the solution itself, but they are involved to ride herd until it’s solved.

It’s a good rule for your organization, that is if you want to deliver great service.