Posted: October 4, 2014, 11:30 a.m.
by Michelle Pierce.
Finally. The weekend has arrived that John Vawter and his wife, Susan, have been anxiously awaiting. A weekend away from the kids. A weekend away from business calls. A weekend dedicated to just the two of them to celebrate their five years of marriage. As John and Susan arrive at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New Orleans, they are immediately welcomed with warm, friendly faces. They proceed to the check-in counter and begin discussing their plans for the evening amongst themselves. The young gentleman behind the desk places their bags on the golden luggage cart and politely escorts them to their suite. Not much time passes before the couple enters the room to find a chilled bottle of champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and a handwritten letter wishing them a happy anniversary.
Not having told any of the employees it was their anniversary, John and Susan were pleasantly surprised by the sweet gesture awaiting them.
After this personal experience with Ritz-Carlton customer service, Vawter, principal of Capstone Collegiate Communities, and his directors met with an executive at Ritz-Carlton to discuss ways of improving his company’s customer service. Vawter said that employees at the Ritz-Carlton are trained to have their antennas up at all times. They listen to the conversations of guests, picking up on any possible opportunities to serve above and beyond.
Ritz-Carlton uses the strategy of telling rather than selling to develop customer loyalty. The five-star hotel continues to hold its title as a leading brand through its service of excellence.
Customers remember the personal relationships they build and the emotional connections formed. The hotel uses authentic stories provided by guests to gain trust and pique interest in its business. In “The New Gold Standard,” Dr. Joseph A. Michelli describes the “rare, exclusive” customer service experience as a “story that other people can’t buy off the shelf.”
“Even though it may be in a different part of the country, the Ritz still pays attention to every detail and goes above and beyond,” said Cathy Canto, a loyal Ritz-Carlton guest. “You still come away with an amazing experience — a memorable moment.”
The wow factor
Ritz-Carlton employees strive to create special moments that “wow” the guests. According to Michelli, “Wow stories are one of the most important vehicles that the leadership at Ritz-Carlton uses for communicating the values they see as critical to the success of the company.” Exemplary customer service acts as a form of public relations in the hotel business. Guests leave the hotel as walking billboards, sharing their stories to friends and posting on social media.
According to evalue analytics, the Ritz Carlton is beating its competitors on the social media platform in terms of impact, engagement and responsiveness. The study reveals that across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the Ritz-Carlton receives almost four times more engagement than any other hotel chain. Hotel guests use #RCMemories to share their experiences on various social platforms.
The selection process
At the Ritz-Carlton, employees are “selected” rather than hired. Micah Solomon, author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit” said what’s most important is “the quality of their ‘selection’ process, on-boarding and reinforcement of employees.”
In “The New Gold Standard,” Hervé Humler, president of international operations, explained, “Hiring can be nothing more than finding anyone to fill a job, but selection? That is choosing the best person to provide exemplary service.” The employees take pride in their jobs and feel the responsibility to live up to the trust placed in them during their employment.
Canto described how some hotels can be a hit or miss, but at the Ritz-Carlton, the guests know what kind of quality and service to expect.
“It’s the quality and the service; it’s the personal attention because they’re forming personal relationships and they follow through,” explained Canto. “When they say they are going to do something, they do it.”
Service at Ritz-Carlton feels genuine and authentic. “It doesn’t feel like a check off the list,” Canto stated. “It comes off like a passion. They like doing it.”
Turning up the heat
Royal Cup District Manager Nick Maroules shared the knowledge he gained from Corporate Director of Culture Transformation at the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center Alexandra Valentin’s speech on customer experience.
Valentin had noted that water is hot at 211 degrees, but at 212 degrees water begins to boil. What is the transition in that one degree Fahrenheit to change it from a hot situation to a boiling situation?
“That’s what the Ritz is constantly looking at,” said Maroules. They are asking, “How can we take the experience over the line?”
An employee’s uniform is not complete until a credo card is in the front pocket. The card lists the company’s credo, motto and service values. Every day, every employee in every location comes together for approximately 15 minutes to discuss and reinforce one of the values listed on the note card to prepare for the day.
What takes the Ritz to the boiling point? The ability to create a special moment right on the spot. The hotel provides each employee with a $2000 value, giving him or her the capability to generate a “wow” story without asking for permission.
Employees grow to learn about their guests. They record details such as one’s favorite drink, hobby or sports team. With this information, employees are able to develop a personal relationship with the guests.
The extra degree is as simple as delivering champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries to a couple on their anniversary. It’s creating that magical moment between the guests and the hotel. It’s catering to the guests’ unaddressed needs. It’s paying attention to every detail. It’s going above and beyond in any way possible. It’s not just a job, it’s a passion. It’s the Ritz-Carlton.