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If You Want to Improve Your Customer Service, Take a Look at How Ritz-Carlton Does It

I was recently in downtown Philadelphia for a meeting, and I arrived a little early. I decided to walk a few blocks and look inside the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton because I was told it was an incredible historic building. I had also had heard that they had great service.

When I walked up the short steps to the hotel, the doorman greeted me at the door and smiled broadly and gave me a very warm greeting. I went in and looked around. As I was leaving, the same doorman said “Sir, have you seen our new ballroom? It is magnificent. We are very proud of it.” I was really amazed how concerned they were for my customer experience, even though I wasn’t one!

I told him I had not seen it. He then gave his colleague doorman a subtle signal and took me to the ballroom for a tour. He was so proud of the new ballroom. I left the hotel highly impressed with my customer experience, and I wasn’t even a customer. (But I will be in the future.)

Why does Ritz Carlton have such incredible customer service? What is their secret? The reality is, they don’t have a secret. They actually post it on their website–they have customer service standards.

They call them the Gold Standards. If you can learn from what they do, you too can have exceptional service.

Here is the key–if you want extraordinary service in your organization, you have to create standards of behavior. Standards of behavior are simple written guidelines for how people should behave at work with customers.

As an example, here are Ritz Carlton’s three steps of service:

  1. A warm and sincere greeting.
  2. Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.

How can you use these ideas in your business? Here are five ways to apply the idea.

Create standards.

Assemble a cross-functional group of people from each area of your business. The goal is to design behavioral standards for each area of your business.

You should look at 1) How you communicate with customers in person, by phone and email. 2) How you communicate with everyone else on the team. 3) How you handle the issue when there is a problem.

This, by the way, is how Ritz Carlton can have 91 hotels worldwide and consistently deliver the same level of superb service.

Make sure everyone is at the table.

When you have the meeting to create standards, it is important to have people at the table from each functional area.

Why? First, you get different perspectives and ideas. Secondly, you get much better buy-in because they are part of it. They get to contribute.

Make sure the standards meet one of three essential criteria.

The standards must be either 1) measurable or 2) tangible or 3) observable. For example, a standard can be you always answer the phone by the third ring. (that is an example of a measurable standard)

You will notice the standards for Ritz Carlton’s three service standards all meet one of these criteria. Here is the key- if you can’t hold people accountable unless you have criteria.

Excellent service is not about attitude- it is about behavior. That is what world class organizations like Disney and Zappos do to ensure super service every time.

Communicate it out.

Once the standards are in writing and the team is happy with them, they need to be communicated to everyone through meetings and emails.

Make sure that each manager meets with their teams to talk about them. Explain why behavioral standards are being rolled out and the positive impact it will have on everyone and the business.

Design incentives and rewards.

You need to reward people for meeting and exceeding the standards. What incentives can you put in place to reward people for this?

Compliments, small rewards like gift cards and public company recognition can all go a long way. Long term, raises and performance reviews can reinforce the standards.

In addition to reward you also have to design consequences when people don’t meet the standards what are they? Some consequences could include verbal feedback from their manager and formal discipline in the form of being written up probation or termination.

I recommend managers spend much more time focusing on the positive reinforcement.

Your business can be the Ritz Carlton of your industry. If you do, you will drive increased revenue, increase profit, improve employee morale and have a workplace where everyone is winning. Who after all doesn’t want to be the Gold Standard?

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