Credit from The Book "Beloved Brands"
The Impeccable service helps separate Ritz-Carlton. Ritz-Carlton does a lot of things right to earn the high prices charge–best locations, beautiful rooms, nice beds and great meals. In reality, every luxury hotel has to deliver these or they’ll be quickly out of business. Recognizing a brand must be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz-Carlton focused their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other hotels. What Ritz-Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one.
As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz-Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”. Employees carry around notepads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.
Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests. Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz-Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out. And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. Is that not what marketers should be doing? So what is getting in your way?
Ritz-Carlton bakes service values right into their culture
The Ritz-Carlton phrase they use with their staff is “Keep your radar on and antenna up” so that everyone can look for the unexpressed needs of their guests. These could be small wins that delight consumers in a big way, showing the hotel is thinking of ways to treat them as unique and special. But like any hotel, things do go wrong. When a problem does arise they quickly brainstorm and use everyone’s input. The staff is encouraged to surprise and delight guests so they can turn a problem into a potential wow moment.
A culture of “wow stories”
A great story that makes its way around the Ritz-Carlton world. A guest who had just left the hotel called to say that their son had left his stuffed giraffe in the room. The boy could not stop crying. The only thing these distraught parents could think of to tell their son is that the giraffe was staying on the vacation a little longer. So the staff found the giraffe and overnighted it to the boy. Most luxury hotels would have done that. But that was not enough for Ritz-Carlton.
Knowing what the Mom had told their son about staying on a bit longer, the staff also included a photo album of the giraffe enjoying his extra stay. They took photos sitting by the pool, getting a massage in the spa with cucumbers on his eyes, and laying out on the beach. Imagine how the parents felt. And the signal it sends to them about the Ritz-Carlton staff. Imagine how many friends they may share that story with.
Harvard did a study on Employee Engagement, stating that the average company had 29% of their employees who were fully engaged and they labeled this group as the ‘Super Stars’. Using the same criteria, Ritz Carlton has 92% of their staff are considered fully engaged. No wonder they are able to win so many service awards and no wonder they can create such an experience for their consumers. They have fully created a culture that now defines the brand.
So what can brand leaders learn from Ritz-Carlton?
How can Brand Leaders meet the unexpressed needs of guests? Are you too worried about the short-term results that you are not even seeing or hearing the unexpressed needs of consumers? Are you so analytical that you need to see the data first and never reach for your instincts?
How do you get your antenna up, so that you are always watching, listening and thinking? How many times a week do you talk with consumers, walk into a store or monitor the brand’s social media feed? Do you ever sit with customer service or read through consumer complaints? Can you set aside time to do a quick brainstorm on consumer observations once a week?
How can Brand Leaders push themselves to wow the consumer? The Ritz-Carlton staff is constantly trying to wow their guests, with surprise and delight that goes beyond the brand promise. Are you pushing yourself to surprise or wow your consumer? Do you have a high standard for the work that exceeds that of your consumer?