Deliver 6-Star Customer Service in a 5-Star World

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Highly effective and quality service like that delivered by the Ritz-Carlton Hotels is a prime example of organizations that have mastered the art of going above and beyond in the call of service through their innovative service experience.

An experience with a team member at the Ritz-Carlton is different in that they will deliver a luxurious service that is highly specialized and tailor made to suit each individual. Their approach to service is more like an art form than an impersonalized administrative routine that is the expected norm elsewhere.

Your immediate thoughts right now may be to dismiss the idea that the Ritz-Carlton support strategy could have any relevance to businesses outside of the hotel trade, but you couldn’t be more wrong in that assumption.

The Ritz-Carlton group know only too well that customers have to be treated right, which means giving them special care and attention. They have learned that if you want returning and long lasting loyal customers that spend well and are also content enough to voluntarily advertise your great service by word of mouth, then you have to develop a relationship with them and deliver a great service.

That is not just a customer service philosophy that is solely applicable to the hospitality industry; it is relevant to all businesses that rely on customer relations for their ultimate success. Customer support services systems today are generally headed on the road to (or have already reached) complete and utter failure/disaster.

3 Steps to Ritz-Carlton Exceptional Experiences

Make no mistake about it; businesses are failing their customers and their reputation by neglecting this fact in favor of financial cutbacks and misguided advice. The Ritz-Carlton Hotels for example; adopt a service strategy, which is referred to as the “Three Steps of Service.” What of these following three steps of that strategy cannot be adopted by all other businesses?

Step 1: A Warm welcome
Step 2: Anticipation and compliance
Step 3: A Fond farewell

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center is a highly successful resource center that has welcomed senior executives/management and frontline employees of many different leading industries. In light of Ritz-Carlton’s numerous service awards, the organization continues to invest heavily in ensuring that its people are consistently trained and re-trained in deliver exceptional service.

Organizations in diverse industries recognize the value this great company’s customer service excellence delivers to its customers, the impact on the customer relationship and use the Ritz as a model and benchmark for their own business strategy.

Ritz-Carlton has numerous partner hotels and an impressive chain of 80 hotels globally in 27 countries that employ 38,000 staff, as well as 12 international sales offices. They are constantly expanding and in this year (2012) they are opening a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Dorado Beach as well as The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi in the Grand Canal. New hotel future openings have already been ear-marked for the following locations: The Santa Rosa Mountain Range, Cairo, Tianjin, Bangalore, Aruba, Herzliya that will overlook the Mediterranean Sea in the Palm Beach of Israel and another hotel Reserve overlooking the Caribbean Sea in West Caicos.

The Ritz-Carlton’s frontline staff in the first year are said to participate in 300 hours of training and thereafter 120 hours of further training per annum. The training primarily concentrates on two aspects of service, paying attention to detail and the handling of mistakes. Anticipating unexpressed needs of the customer is another unique gold standard of the Ritz-Carlton initiative.

Ritz-Carlton guests receive a very high standard of comprehensive personalized care. Employees take benefit from the training to be better able to make detailed observation of the guests, to be more attentive, courteously responsive and to listen to guests effectively. In return the company receives ever-lasting customer loyalty and unreserved well-deserved praise.

Empowered Employees Really Make a Difference

Every business, particularly a company of Ritz-Carlton’s magnitude will have their fair share of mishaps on a daily basis. The Ritz-Carlton have their own policy to deal with and the handling of any mistakes, which is to firstly face up to and admit to those mistakes from the onset. Apologies and regret is then profoundly expressed as well as a concerted effort to rectify (if possible) the issue/mistake thereafter.

Staff members are automatically authorized not only to instantly make amends but they are also empowered to do so by offering other material gestures/compensations (like a complimentary meal perhaps) during the continued duration of the guest’s stay (if those mistakes cannot be rectified immediately by other means).

This employee empowerment as a compensatory gesture, however, extends a little further, in respect that staff can also anticipate the unexpected needs of any guest in their care. That is, to be able to offer things like complimentary gestures of Champaign, cake, bowls of fruit, flowers or other relevant offerings to those guests who are celebrating any particular anniversary or any other special private occasion.

Top-Down Customer Experience Commitment

Customer service and exceptional experiences start at the top.

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Training Center’s vice president Diana Dreck, explained how important this ‘anticipates unexpressed needs’ skill is for the company’s gold standard. The gold standard is of the utmost importance because delivering surprise and delight is what provides a legendary service. To be able to deliver this level of attentive service it is more an instinctive response to an on-the-spur-of-the-moment observation.

These are not service reactions that are taught by pre-determined script, the employees are trained in “Radar On – Antenna Up” classes. These classes are performed through acted out scenarios. The element of (a delightful) surprise could not be pulled off successfully if the employee behaved with robotic insincerity. Guests will become thrilled, delighted and totally engaged because this then becomes a personalized memorable unique experience that isn’t easily forgotten.

This intense level of courteous, hospitality excellence has both inspired and deserved countless generous rave reviews, including highly favorable business publication reports. This level of considerate customer care works emphatically and is undeniably a benchmark catalyst for all business to follow.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Flavio Martins
Flavio Martins is the VP of Operations and Customer Support at DigiCert, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise authentication services and high-assurance SSL certificates trusted by thousands of government, education, and Fortune 500 organizations. Flavio is an award-winning customer service blogger, customer service fanatic, and on a mission to show that organizations can use customer experience as a competitive advantage win customer loyalty. Blog: Win the Customer!

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