Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Why is the Ritz Carlton the exception?

You can't have a blog called "That Little Extra" without talking about Ritz Carlton. It is constantly cited as an organisation that truly puts customers at its centre, delighting them through a plethora of unexpected ways. There are enough examples of truly great experiences to ensure the cynics that the myths and stories shared at conferences are indeed everyday occurrences.

So what is it that drives such a model of excellence? What engages the employees in such a way? It is purely this engaged employee workforce or does the entire business circle around the customer? From what I can glean, it is the following:

The staff are not paid over the odds - it is not financial benefit for which employees do magical things for customers. While there is an exchange system whereby staff can work all over the world, the monthly take home is not the reason for it. However, staff do talk about working at the cream of the crop in the hospitality industry.

Values are lived, not forgotten - there are different ways to embed a set of values into organisational culture. Some are simply "the ways things are", and staff would find it difficult to articulate them. Others are far more overt. Ritz Carlton has a set of 12 service values. Each employee and manager has a laminated card with these services values (an example of one: "I build strong relationships and create Ritz Carlton guests for life").  Each day, in a 15 minute line up, once housekeeping issues are addressed, time is taken to reinforce these values, through storytelling.

Share Stories - I must admit to never having stayed in a Ritz Carlton, but I have heard countless stories of customer delight. One story sticks of a simple task - a doorman who opened the door to a seemingly new guest, who realised that she had approached the wrong hotel and was actually staying across the road. Nonetheless, the doorman took her luggage and, in the rain, accompanied and protected her to the correct hotel then bid her farewell by name (where do you think she'll stay next time? Guest for life?)

Beware the enemies of great service - not sharing the big picture with the team, a bad attitude, not celebrating and blame are all highlighted as barriers to delivering high customer service.

Recovery is everything - not everything goes right 100% of the time. We're all human. How you recover from a glitch or mistake is the moment of truth for customer advocacy. One guest told of a story of when his surname was mispronounced on first arrival, and from then on never again.

Systemise - while much is driven by people, some things have to be systemised. The last example is driven by sophisticated software where staff can record how names are pronounced, to be shared across a hotel and chain.

Ruthlessly interview - I have heard that all employees are interviewed by the General Manager, for which there is one key purpose: to check attitude. Many firms say "skills can be taught, attitude can't", yet then go on to hire through evaluating skill. It appears Ritz Carlton takes attitude very seriously in its recruitment process.

Empower and mean it - employees are given up to a certain amount ($2,000 I believe) to take control of a situation and remedy for any recovery required. It doesn't take 3 chains of command and a day to sort things out.

There are probably more things to share but you get the point. If you are serious about delighting customers, then the accompanying philosophy must be embedded across a company's entire operating model and transcend any conflicting metrics in order to do so. Hats off to you, Ritz Carlton for being the exception to the rule and truly embracing this. I'll look to see if I can try out one of your hotels myself at some point...

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts to reflect on. I have had six brands that I think really capture something special - Harley Davidson, L'Oreal, Starbucks, Google, Ritz Carlton, Harvard... each does one thing brilliantly.