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My experience is that when I have to escalate an issue with people in authority I’m successful 90% of the time. (The other 10% usually involves government.) So the front line manager waffles or can’t decide or is afraid, and the immediate superior doesn’t feel it’s a priority, but eventually I reach someone who realizes the least expensive and most promising resolution is to fix it immediately.Thus, the insurance claim is paid, the watch repair is completed, the hotel expense is reversed, the part for the air conditioner is located.

Escalation costs companies a fortune, all because they don’t trust employees or lower level managers to make the right decisions AND the default position is to fight the customer who’s no doubt trying to get away with something. Airlines are chronically bad at this (largely because the customer is “faceless” and the encounter is seldom personal).

From the consumer side, my recommendation is that you write a hard copy, personal letter to the CEO (who can easily be found on the internet). That CEO has a raft of executive assistants who do nothing but settle these issues. And my recommendation from the corporate side is that you simply ask the customer, “What will make you happy?” You’ll wind up paying far less than you think and you’ll have a continuing relationship.

(Note: Once Marriott bought Ritz Carlton, the old practice of any employee being empowered to settle a guest dispute at the front line was discontinued. I find Marriott an organization of constantly declining quality.)

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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