Puttin’ on the Ritz
Ritz-Carlton: The very name is synonymous with luxury and pampering. It is also an exemplary lesson in branding. When you check into a Ritz-Carlton hotel, you know you will experience an extraordinary level of quality and customer service.
While the goal of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. is to make the achievement of this luxury seem effortless, the Ritz-Carlton experience is built upon clearly defined and well-implemented leadership behaviors. These are the behaviors that support the company’s staff in their daily endeavors and enable them to create the caring and opulent atmosphere their customers expect. In his new book, The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Joseph Michelli delves into the principles behind the hotel chain’s success, holding the company up as a model for any business interested in achieving a new “gold standard” of quality and customer loyalty.
According to Michelli, “Leadership at the Ritz-Carlton has successfully maintained a disciplined focus on respect for staff, quality improvement, brand repositioning, corporate adaptation, cultural consistency, and unparalleled service excellence.” In The New Gold Standard, Michelli identifies five core principles — “Define and Refine,” “Empower through Trust,” “It’s Not about You,” “Deliver Wow!” and “Leave a Lasting Footprint” — that power the success of Ritz-Carlton hotels. He also offers insight into how these tenets can be applied across any industry and in all aspects of business and personal life.
Extraordinary Customer Service
One of the most telling, yet seemingly obvious, principles that Michelli explores is the Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to respecting and empowering its staff. In an industry where the hotel chain has created a stellar reputation for itself by providing extraordinary customer service, the company recognizes that its success is dependent upon the employees who administer this service on a daily basis.
Michelli provides anecdotes from hotel guests, employees and executives to illustrate the “above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty” attitude toward service exhibited at each Ritz-Carlton hotel. His stories range from the waitperson who ran to a nearby store to buy grape jelly for a patron when the dining room did not have it on hand, to the staff members at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans who pushed laundry carts loaded with luggage and guests through flooded streets to get their customers to a hotel in a safer location during Hurricane Katrina. These examples not only illustrate a high level of customer service, but also what can be achieved by employees who feel invested in and trusted by their employer.
In a business where luxury hotel workers were previously made to feel inferior to the guests they served, co-founder and former president of Ritz-Carlton Horst Schulze envisioned a company that selected, trained and cultivated a staff of first-class professionals who were just as deserving of respect as its guests. The Ritz-Carlton’s motto soon became “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” According to Michelli, it is the Ritz-Carlton’s creation of a corporate culture that lives and breathes this commitment to excellence that has established the company as an industry leader and garnered it an amazingly low turnover rate in an industry where high turnover is the norm. Michelli describes how the company perpetuates its goals by making “credo” cards defining the “ultimate guest experience” part of each employee’s uniform, and holding daily lineups in which everyone from laundry staff to senior executives participate at the start of each shift.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The New Gold Standard provides more than just an examination of the best employee practices of an industry leader. Michelli also uses the Ritz-Carlton’s extensive charitable and community-building work as a strong argument for making corporate social responsibility an integral part of every company’s culture.
Michelli’s review of the Ritz-Carlton’s shortcomings adds a refreshing counterpoint to his praise. He also underscores the idea that every company, even the best, can benefit from analysis and improvement. Although Michelli could have included a few more examples of mistakes, as well as more explanations of industry jargon for readers unfamiliar with the hospitality field, overall he provides an excellent resource for readers striving to establish their own gold standards.