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Customer Service Excellence – The Ritz-Carlton’s “Secret Sauce”

November 15, 2012 by Ashley Furness in Customer Service

Customer Service Excellence – The Ritz-Carlton's “Secret Sauce”

Luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton is world renowned for their ‘above and beyond’ approach to customer experience and management. Even mega gadget guru Apple used Ritz’ “Legendary Service” model to help craft their loyalty strategy.

For Ritz, it’s all about anticipating the customers’ expressed and unexpressed needs. This means seeking out the customer’s unanticipated and unvoiced needs. How do they achieve this? By hiring and retaining the right employees. Due to their extraordinary management style, Ritz-Carlton boasts among the best employee retention rates around – a constant battle in the hospitality industry.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Diana Oreck, Vice President of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, to try and find the secret to Ritz’ super service sauce. Here is what she had to say:

Ritz-Carlton puts a lot of emphasis on successful new hire orientation. Why is this important for customer service training?
  • A lot of companies have a notion that employee orientation really needs to be a data dump of the company, statistics and who’s doing what. It really isn’t. What we are looking for at orientation is passion. We want to make sure that that new person gets the feeling they made the right decision in joining us.
Is this also something that helps with customer service employee satisfaction and retention?
  • Yes, it’s about engagement. I will give you an example. The lodging industry as a whole tends to run a 60-70 percent turnover in a year. Here at Ritz Carlton we run in the low 20s. It’s a huge difference.
What else do you do to promote retention?
  • We’ve got a vast list. Rewards and recognition is huge. Ranging from first class card, which is the most popular form of recognition at Ritz Carlton. Talk about less is more, it’s just a card that says “first class” and we give it to each other to thank each other. It can be peer to peer, peer to manager, employee to president, president to employee. And then we have things like giving gift certificates on birthdays. You can become five-star of the quarter. We don’t do employee of the month, because we find it’s much more meaningful if it’s the quarter. We are also one of the only hotel companies that still provide meals for their staff. We have gorgeous picnics in the summer and the holiday party and it goes on and on.
What metrics or qualitative data does Ritz-Carlton use to measure customer service training success (How do you know it’s working)? How do you collect this data?
  • Oh yes, we poll our guests once a month. The Gallup organization sends out surveys to 38 percent of guests that stayed the month before. It’s done randomly with the hope that we will get 8-10 percent return. We live and die by that guest engagement number. This is the sum of responses to about 30 questions, including how likely is that guest to recommend Ritz Carlton? Were they delighted and satisfied with their stay? If there was a problem, did we take care of their problem? We know that if that guest engagement number goes up, we know that our training programs have been successful.
What are the biggest mistakes companies make when training customer service staff?
  • There not being specific enough. They’ll say things like “Give great service.” Well that’s nice, but people need a road map. Never assume anything, make sure you have your service standards written down and allow people to observe you in action. Don’t assume that their mother or father, or previous employer taught them what really great service looks like. Have a written service strategy.
What are some successful customer service strategies have companies adopted by studying Ritz-Carlton?
  • It’s all about empowerment. The thing that our guests are most wowed about is that every single employee has $2,000 a day per guest to delight, or make it right. But we never use the money because that money is just symbolic. We are saying to our employees we trust you. We select the best talent. Just help the guest. We do a lot of training around empowerment. So I would say this – you need to empower employees. You also need to make sure that you are inspiring employees to bring their passion to work everyday and to volunteer their best. And you do that by reinforcing their purpose, not their function. Not the how to do your work, but the why of the work you do.

This article was written by Ashley Furness, a CRM analyst for Software Advice.

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About Ashley Furness

Ashley Furness is a CRM analyst for SoftwareAdvice.com. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. She can be contacted at ashleyfurness@softwareadvice.com

View all posts by Ashley Furness →

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