Managing Mystique: How Ritz-Carlton Delivers Amazing Customer Service

I was in St. Thomas earlier this year keynoting a client incentive trip for Top Producers.  Tough gig, I know.  I actually arrived a couple days early for a little R&R with my girlfriend.   During a day on the beach we decided to rent standup paddle boards for a little fun in the sun.  It was my first paddle board experience and from my perspective, it’s harder than it looks.  Seconds into standing I lost my balance and down I went, kissing my sunglasses goodbye.

Later that afternoon a member of the hotel staff approached inquiring if I had “lost my sunglasses.”  I acknowledged the mishap and was handed a pair of Ray-Ban’s with the casual comment “I believe these might belong to you?”  They were the missing sunglasses. I was actually stunned (my girlfriend was delighted since they were her extra pair).  We had to know more.

After overhearing that we returned from our outing one pair of shades short, the hotel did a little snorkeling recon and recovered them.  No kidding.  We never mentioned the sunglasses to anyone.  We certainly didn’t expect anyone to look for them.  That was beyond unexpected.  Turns out, that is exactly the point!

Part of the Ritz-Carlton mystique is the Fulfillment of Unexpressed Wishes and Needs and they are very specific in how to accomplish that objective with the goal of developing such strong emotional engagement between the hotels’ staff and their guests that “a guest will not consider staying anywhere else, if they have an option.”  They understand that relationships precede financial results and rely on a robust data set that demonstrates the impact engaged employees and repeat customers have on the bottom line.

I learned more about the Ritz-Carlton Gold Standards listening to  Diana Oreck, vice president of the Global Leadership Center for Ritz Carlton who talked about their “Radar On – Antenna Up” approach to service. That means employees are trained to break routine to solve problems and own them until they are resolved.  They work hard to anticipate customer needs and employees are empowered with up to $2,000.00 to resolve any customer concern.

I can tell you from personal experience Ritz-Carlton delivers an extraordinary level of customer service, consistently. It is the engine that drives their growth strategy and helps them win in the very competitive luxury hotel category.

If creating customers for life is critical to your success here are 4 Ritz-Carlton practices you can emulate. (Tip:  Leadership has to model this behavior from the top.)

Get Specific:  How does your organization earn customers for life?  Everyone who works at Ritz-Carlton knows the answer to that question.  They have a credo and 3 steps to service.  Requiring excellent service from employees isn’t good enough.  You need to take the extra step and define what that means.

Share The WOW: Every day, employees of every department in every Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world gather for a 15-minute staff meeting known as the lineup that includes the sharing of “wow stories.” These are true stories of employee heroics that go above and beyond conventional customer service.  This is part of the culture and they demonstrate the discipline to hold the lineup every single day which, over time, proves to be a tremendous communication and training tool.

Inside Out Approach:  Employees are referred to as “The Ladies and Gentleman of Ritz Carlton.”  The Ritz-Carlton Employee Promise indicates “our Ladies & Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.”  What is your employee promise?  You can’t take great care of customers unless you take great care of employees first. That starts with great leadership.

Empowerment:  Employees are “empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences by always being responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”  That gives employees the freedom to significantly contribute to the overall objective of “creating guests for life.”

Turns out the search for those sunglasses wasn’t an isolated act of one employee being exceptional.  It was a good example of delivering WOW in a culture that is committed to winning through the power of brand experience.  When given a choice, I’ll gladly choose Ritz-Carlton.

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