By Kevin Meyer
We've often heard about the incredible customer focus at Ritz-Carlton hotels. Now a Forbes interview with RC president Simon Cooper sheds some more light on the subject.
Ritz-Carlton has become a leading brand in luxury lodging by rigorously adhering to its own standards. It is the only service company in America that has won the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award twice, and Training Magazine has called it the best company in the nation for employee training. Its unique culture starts with a motto: "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."
So what kinds of unique things do they do?
We entrust every single Ritz-Carlton staff member, without approval from their general manager, to spend up to $2,000 on a guest. And that's not per year. It's per incident. When you say up to $2,000, suddenly somebody says, wow, this isn't just about rebating a movie because your room was late, this is a really meaningful amount. It doesn't get used much, but it displays a deep trust in our staff's judgment. Frankly, they could go over that amount, with the general manager's permission.
The concept is to do something, to create an absolutely wonderful stay for a guest. Significantly, there is no assumption that it's because there is a problem. It could be that someone finds out it's a guest's birthday, and the next thing you know there's champagne and cake in the room. A lot of the stuff that crosses my desk is not that they overcame a problem but that they used their $2,000 to create an outstanding experience.
There are stories about hiring a carpenter to build a shoe tree for a guest; a laundry manager who couldn't get the stain out of a dress after trying twice flying up from Puerto Rico to New York to return the dress personally; or when in Dubai a waiter overheard a gentleman musing with his wife, who was in a wheelchair, that it was a shame he couldn't get her down to the beach. The waiter told maintenance, who passed word, and the next afternoon there was a wooden walkway down the beach to a tent that was set up for them to have dinner in. That's not out of the ordinary, and the general manager didn't know about it until it was built.
Pretty incredible. Meanwhile how many of us have spending limits, even as experienced managers and executives, that preclude us from creating exceptional service. I often joke with my CFO that our shop floor operators have more financial authority than the company President as they can make $40,000 accept/reject decisions every day without any oversight, and we trust them completely, but our executives require multiple approvals for far less.
How about the concept of stand up morning meetings:
We use what we call "lineup," which is a Ritz-Carlton tradition. The concept comes from the early restaurants of France, where the chef got his whole team and all the waiters and waitresses and the maitre d' together at 5:30 in the evening. It's a sort of round table. Everybody is there. The chef communicates what they are going to be serving. For the Ritz-Carlton, we want every single hotel, everywhere in the world, every partner, every shift, to utilize lineup, which typically takes around 15 minutes every day. Part of the lineup everywhere around the world is a "wow story," which means talking about great things that our ladies and gentlemen have done. That is a wonderful training and communication tool, where every department layers on the department message. And it's based on having the same message everywhere, every day, and then each hotel layers on its own message.
Not only are issues and policies discussed and aligned, but successes are celebrated. That's a lesson and reminder for many of us who already have stand up meetings.
Finally, what is the key to their successful customer-centric culture?
A culture is built on trust. And if leadership doesn't live the values that it requires of the organization, that is the swiftest way to undermine the culture. No culture sticks if it's not lived at the highest levels of the organization. It takes an extraordinarily long time to build a culture.
Hear hear. Trust, driven from the top.
Finally, does anyone want to sponsor me to stay at a Ritz for a few days so I can investigate in more detail? I promise a great post will follow!