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The Ritz Carlton is widely recognized as the gold standard of hospitality and great customer service because it brings in the highest guest-satisfaction rankings in the biz.

So how can you create what one Ritz executive calls “passionate, raving fans?” We decided to take a closer look at how this luxury hotel chain works its magic...

First, the Ritz Carlton’s guiding philosophy is “unwavering commitment to service.” That says it all. We also discovered that employees are chosen based on how friendly and service-oriented they are. Then they are treated really well by the company and trained to offer guests what they don’t even realize they want - and then go above and beyond to provide it.

We also found this interview by Ashley Verrill of the Customer Service Investigator with Diana Oreck, the Ritz-Carlton vice president in charge of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, the company’s executive training facility. It gets at the heart of what makes the Ritz great.

Here’s some highlights of overall customer experience and customer loyalty:

Surprise and delight. “It’s very important because legendary service is about surprise and delight. It’s not robotic; it’s not scripted. And the way we teach it is through a class called “Radar On – Antenna Up.” We actually provide our team scenarios. One might be about a young couple that comes into the restaurant with a two-year-old baby. What should you do? You bring a high chair, you bring crayons and you bring our stuffed lion, Roarie. We do this because we know that it’s going to be through the unique, memorable and personable experiences that our customers are going to be fully delighted and engaged.”

Personality traits of prospective employees. “We want to make sure they have the spirit to serve (and) that they are caring. We want to make sure that they are the type of people who will take initiative because the reality is if you are just reacting to customers that’s not good enough to be competitive. We want people who really know how to anticipate. You’ve got to be quite sociable. You want to be interested in learning so if there’s an issue you want to get to the bottom of it.”

Creating passionate employees. “A lot of companies have a notion that employee orientation really needs to be a data dump of the company, and statistics and who’s doing what. It really isn’t. You are making a very big decision in your life to either start a job or change a job. So, we feel orientation needs to be a significant emotional experience. And the reason we do that is we know that this creates passionate advocates of our employees. We don’t think that it’s realistic to ask that your customer be passionate fans if your employees aren’t first.”

Customer service makes money. “We have data pretty much down to the penny that shows our fully-engaged guests are spending more nights in a Ritz-Carlton every year than any others. There is a direct correlation to profitability. I can assure you we would not be spending the kind of money we do on training and reinforcement if we didn’t think it was going to show us the money.”

Customer Service Testimonials That Count

Here’s one from A VIP that captures the essence of what makes the Ritz great when it comes to customer service.

On Saturday morning we wanted to go out exploring. I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses in our car, which had been parked with the valet the night before. Rather than have them pull the car around for my sunglasses I called the front desk and asked if they could run to the parking deck and get my glasses. The answer, ‘Yes sir, is there anything else I can help you with today?’ By the time I reached the lobby the valet was there with my glasses.

-Matthew Swyers, Inc. magazine

We called the Ritz in London in the middle of winter just to see if we could get a deal on a room for one night. We figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to stay at the Ritz. They gave us a room for about $300 due to the fact that it was the low season. Then, when we checking in, we asked if we could upgrade. They said yes! The room they gave us must have cost at least $2,500 to $5,000 a night in the high season. It was a huge, ornate suite with a marble bathroom the size of our living room at home, like something out of the movies. We felt like rock stars.

-Elisabeth Dunham, Portland, Ore.
 

A young couple ordered two Mai Tais from the hotel bartender. They told her that they were “pretending to be in Hawaii” as they had planned a honeymoon at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. However, they had to postpone those plans as the groom discovered he had cancer and would need to begin chemotherapy in a few days. A lounge server overheard this and called the overnight manager to see if he could put something special in their room - perhaps rose petals or chocolate-covered strawberries. When he heard their story, the manager said to give him 20 minutes and delay the couple in returning to their room.

The overnight manager called back a little later and requested to make the couple two tropical drinks. He presented the couple with a pineapple on a plate with a cheerful “Aloha!” and informed them that they had to move to the “Kapalua” room. When the guests opened the door, they were astounded to see their room transformed into a tropical paradise. Orchids covered the floor. Beautiful fish were everywhere. Japanese lamps glowed in the bathroom, and a fishing net was draped over the bed. There were shells and sand over the nightstands. The manager took pictures of the happy couple in “Hawaii,” which he printed and enlarged for them as a memento of their stay.

-Shared by an employee of the Ritz-Carlton in Marina Del Rey

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