I pulled out of the archives an oldie, but a goodie. I re-read “The New Gold Standard”, by Joseph A. Michelli. It’s an in-depth look at how the Ritz-Carlton hotels have developed a corporate culture that consistently delivers world-class customer service throughout the organization. It’s literally a fascinating book to me, and one worth your time if you lead anything that you want to go somewhere. Here’s a synopsis. Enjoy! 

The award-winning hotels and resorts of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company have been consistently recognized for unwavering commitment to service excellence and unmatched quality since the original Ritz Paris Hotel was opened in 1898 by Cesar Ritz. The New Gold Standard reveals the specific leadership principles that produce the Ritz-Carlton’s exemplary corporate culture, exceptional staff empowerment, and extraordinary commitment to its customers.

PRINCIPLE 1: Communicate Core Identity

While many companies have finely worded statements of vision, purpose and values, few business leaders can rival Ritz-Carlton when it comes to keeping those roadmaps and cultural anchors at the top-of-mind of their staff. One of their most basic strategies is a trifold pocket card—identified as part of an employee’s uniform—outlining their “Gold Standard”:

- The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

- We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

- The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpected wishes and needs of our guests.

This pocket card—referred to as the Credo Card—also includes The Motto of RitzCarlton: Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.

Along with the Credo Card, Ritz-Carlton has established guidelines for providing consistent service the Ritz-Carlton way— 12 values that encourage “ways of being” as opposed to “ways of doing.” These “Service Values” enable staff members to focus on desired outcomes for individual guests rather applying a one-size-fits all script to every guest and every situation.

PRINCIPLE 2: Empower Staff through Trust

To truly understand the success of Ritz-Carlton, one must understand their approach to the staff selection process. They believe excellence occurs by starting with the right raw talent instead of attempting to manage employees to overcome talent deficits. They are looking for those with true strengths to consistently deliver luxury service—a strength being something you do well, and a true strength being something you do well and enjoy.

Respectful and genuine treatment of employees engenders a trust for leadership that is essential to move their business forward. Unless employees know that they are truly valued, they often don’t invest the extra effort needed to exceed customer expectations and arrive at innovative service solutions.

PRINCIPLE 3: Build a Business Focused on Others

In order to create a memorable experience, a service provider has to connect with a guest’s individuality and deliver service customized to that guest’s preferences. Many businesses do this using customer relationship management software as a way of tracking guest preferences, but few have used this type of technology more effectively than RitzCarlton.

The role of the senior leader is not to “lead” quality in an organization, but to help influence a “quality culture.” Leadership creates an environment for service excellence by assisting staff members to fully attend to others, to use all their senses, and ultimately to place themselves in the situations of those they serve.

PRINCIPLE 4: Deliver Wow!

Since customer engagement is linked to the customers’ wanting to “feel a rush,” Ritz-Carlton leadership calls this desired memorable and emotional connection a “Wow experience”—and encourages staff to personally affect guests to achieve this level of emotional intensity by delivering service that appeals to both the thinking and the feeling aspects of the consumer.

Ritz-Carlton uses their “Wow stories”—remarkable examples of extraordinary service exhibited by their Ladies and Gentlemen—to reinforce existing service excellence and to propel future extraordinary acts. In fact, Wow stories are one of the most important vehicles for communicating the values they see as critical to the success of the company.

PRINCIPLE 5: Leave a Lasting Footprint

In the competitive world of business today, corporate leaders are looking for opportunities to maintain the relevance of their established brands by broadening product offerings to meet the evolving needs of their customers—products that they would expect them to sell, that fit well with their brand, and are a natural extension of the expertise they already provide.

Increasingly, businesses are judged for the lasting nature of the footprint they leave on individuals, communities, and other businesses. Myopic companies focus on short-term profitability instead of ecological sustainability, or they prioritize advertising over efforts to train and grow their people. Ritz-Carlton, from its inception, wanted to be a truly great company—to be known “as a positive, supportive member of the community” and “sensitive to the environment.”

Conclusion: A Lasting Impression

Service in the Ritz-Carlton culture is little more than delivering a product the customer wants without defects, delivering the product when and how the customer wants it, and providing the product with genuine care and concern for that customer. While these three aspects of service are fairly simple and timeless, the complexity of this seemingly uncomplicated formula requires constant listening to customers and staff as well as disciplined execution.

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