How the Ritz-Carlton Creates a 5 Star Customer Experience
Glamor. Luxury. Opulence. The Ritz-Carlton. Whether you’ve stayed there or not, most people associate the hotel chain as one of the classiest and fanciest hospitality options out there. However, not everyone knows what makes the hotel chain’s clock truly tick.
The hotel company operates luxury hotels and five-star resorts worldwide and has long since demonstrated an organizational culture based on outstanding customer service. Besides holding one of the highest J.D. Power rankings for guest satisfaction, the renowned chain has received all the significant awards the hospitality industry can bestow.
Looking for tips to improve your customer focus? Want your service excellence to be raved about? The Ritz-Carlton offers an excellent model of best practices.
The secret to Ritz’s unparalleled customer service lies in its strict adherence to “Gold Standards” that were established from the company’s outset. These criteria encompass the philosophy and values by which the brand operates and include the Motto, the Credo, the Three Steps of Service, the Service Values, and the Employee promise.
Far from being secret codes, the Ritz’s standards appear on the hotel’s website so all viewers can grasp the brand’s service philosophy.
The Motto “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” is probably the most famous part of the Gold Standards. Employees use this framework to deal with guests and coworkers. They must treat Ritz-Carlton guests with dignity and act the same way toward their colleagues.
With its Credo, the company pledges to “provide the finest personal service and facilities for [its] guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance.” Employees commit to fulfilling even the unexpressed needs of their guests.
Twelve Service Values
The Ritz’ Twelve Service Values remind employees that true hospitality results from long-term commitments by staffers who perform their tasks with passion and pride. Those values are conveyed in statements such as “I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience,” “I own and immediately resolve guest problems,” and “I am proud of my professional appearance, language, and behavior.”
Three Steps of Service
The Three Steps of Service call for giving guests a warm and sincere greeting using their name, anticipating and fulfilling their needs, and saying a fond farewell, again addressing them by their name.
The company considers employees as its most significant asset. “At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests,” the Employee Promise indicates, “By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.”
Employees: An unmatched asset
As all Ritz-Carlton staffers act as brand ambassadors, the company takes the selection process very seriously. Candidates must be sociable, caring, interested in learning, and have the spirit to serve.
“We don’t hire for technical talent but natural talent,” says David Cayuela, General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, Mexico.
It may be easier to train employees to develop technical skills, but it is that natural talent that makes the Ritz-Carlton difference. For example, a person’s ability to work with a team and reflect the organization’s philosophy has a higher value than his or her housekeeping skills.
As stated in its Credo, The Ritz-Carlton aims to take service to the next level by addressing unexpressed wishes. The company, therefore, seeks prospective employees who can detect customers’ needs and take initiatives.
For example, after placing a breakfast tray on the coffee table as a guest requested, a room service waiter can tilt the television toward the guest’s viewing direction. A front desk agent can call guests who are planning to leave early the next morning to ask if they would like to have a pot of fresh, hot coffee delivered to their door.
The Ritz-Carlton invests a lot in staff coaching. Mr. Cayuela confirms that the company requires every employee to complete at least 250 hours of training each year. Recognizing that team members have different learning styles, the Ritz offers orientation in different formats, such as one-on-one coaching, online training, classroom training, or weeklong seminars.
Employee engagement: a 21-day strategy
The company also puts an emphasis on employee engagement and loyalty, nurturing a high level of commitment by listening to its “Ladies and Gentlemen.” On the 21st day on the job, staff members are certified in the standards of their positions and at the same time can access a forum to openly discuss the positives and negatives they have encountered so far.
Day 21 is an opportunity for management to listen to the needs of newly hired Ladies and Gentlemen and re-enroll them before they have a chance to disengage.
Ritz-Carlton regularly uses Gallup’s employee engagement metric to evaluate each staff member’s engagement in the organization. Statements such as “I know what is expected of me at work, and “at work, my opinions seem to count,” help the company measure the commitment level of its workforce. These statements reveal how each team member genuinely feels.
Treating employees with respect and dignity creates a work environment that motivates staff members and allows them to rise to their best self. Employees feel like they belong to a team and recognize the importance of their particular role in performing a high level of service.
One Ritz-Carlton’s service values states, “I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.” The company understands that the best way to deliver on these values is to trust its employees with decision-making authority.
Therefore, every employee, from housekeeping to management, can spend up to $2,000 per guest, per day, to resolve a problem without asking permission from a supervisor. When facing an issue, staff members are entrusted with the opportunity to do what seems best at the moment.
Empowered employees acknowledge that their decisions are contributing to the company’s success and, consequently, they care more about their work. The opportunity to take initiatives and express creativity without asking permission from a manager allows them to feel a pride of ownership in their work.
Without empowered employees, customers must work their way up the chain of command and repeat their story to several people before getting their problem solved. A survey commissioned by LivePerson reveals that “82% of customers say the number one factor that leads to a great customer service experience is having their issues resolved quickly.”
A rock-solid system
With 91 properties around the world, in a wide variety of locations, the Ritz-Carlton has a particularly strong need to ensure their best practices are spread companywide.
If, for example, an employee from their Stockholm hotel comes up with a more effective way to manage front desk staffing for busiest check-in times, it only makes sense to consider that approach when the same challenge comes up at a hotel in Tokyo.
This is where the hotel group’s innovation database comes in. The Ritz-Carlton’s employees must use this system to share tried and tested ideas that improve customer experience. Properties can submit ideas and implement suggestions from other locations facing similar challenges.
The database currently includes over 1,000 innovative practices, each of them tested on a property before contributing to the system.
For example, if a Ritz-Carlton’s oceanside resort develops a system using transportation vehicles to speed beverage service on the beach, after a few months of success with this approach, the establishment can add it to the innovation database.
Then, any beachside property looking for ideas to speed their outdoor service can consult the database and discover this ready-made solution.
The Ritz-Carlton’s approach inspires Apple
Ask the average person which tech company offers the best customer experience, and Apple often comes first to mind. Even though the tech giant has about one-fifth the number of stores as Best Buy, it makes five times the sales per store. Apple’s customers keep coming back for more, with a loyalty rate of 90%.
As influential as late CEO Steve Jobs was to the company, he often drew his inspiration from other experiences customers enjoyed outside of the tech sector. Jobs did not want Apple to be the best company in its industry; he wanted it to be the best company, period.
When he was getting ready to open the first Apple stores in the early 2000s, he asked his employees to share their best experiences as customers. A similar answer came back from almost all of them: the most enjoyable customer experience took place at a Ritz-Carlton hotel or resort.
So Jobs sent all his future store managers to the Ritz-Carlton hospitality training, which emphasizes the brand’s philosophy of offering personalized service and anticipating guests’ needs. These techniques eventually set the foundation for Apple stores.
Walk into an Apple store today and you’ll notice the same personable and straightforward approach to customer service as the Ritz—a warm welcome, friendly demeanor and once they get to know your name, a personalized greeting.
You might even recognize that Apple stores are designed to remind the customer of the type of service at a hotel—the Genius Bar in place of a concierge station.
Just as Ritz-Carlton employees must anticipate the unexpressed wishes of their guests, so does the Apple staff, who are instructed to “listen for unresolved issues or concerns.” For example, if a PC owner is thinking of switching to Mac, an Apple employee might spend more time talking about the simplicity of learning a new system and give detailed explanations about data transfer between a PC and Mac.
Employees can schedule visits ahead of time to ensure they are always available to meet with customers and answer their questions. Customers have access to plenty of pleasant distractions to occupy their time while waiting for service. Salespeople also simplify check-out by bringing a credit card reader to the customer. At Apple and the Ritz, employees are solving problems you didn’t even know you had.
Become the Ritz-Carlton of your industry
Apple stores’ phenomenal success shows that borrowing practices from great companies outside of your industry can provide game-changing results. The Ritz’s Gold Standards are simple, well-established, and easy to follow.
Establishing precise customer service standards, ensuring that good practices spread companywide, and, most importantly, engaging and empowering employees will help you create a customer experience to brag about.