Waldron recently hosted a professional education event at the Duquesne Club: Memorable Customer Service, presented by Valori Borland, Director of Culture Transformation for the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.  Attending were business leaders from the region, representing firms such as Burns and Scalo, Flexjet, Pittsburgh Symphony, Larrimor’s and McKinney Properties, as well as the entire firm of Waldron Private Wealth. Here are the highlights from what was a very informative, engaging event.

Radar On-Antenna Up

Central to the Ritz-Carlton philosophy of customer service is culture.  Each new team member hired, referred to as “ladies and gentlemen”, regardless of their position within the company, receives two and a half days of culture immersion, consisting of dining at hotel restaurants, staying at hotel properties and trying out hotel amenities, before they are allowed to perform any of the duties for which they were actually hired. The purpose of the immersion is to have new hires understand, first hand, the experience that they will be delivering to their guests. During this period, new hires are introduced to the Radar On-Antenna Up philosophy of anticipating guests’ needs. The Ritz-Carlton works to accomplish this anticipatory approach in many ways, including utilizing their enterprise CRM database, which tracks all client preferences throughout all 140 hotels as well as all Ritz-Carlton operated residences. If a guest at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas calls room service, and orders a dirty martini with extra olives, that information is collected and stored in their profile, so that when they stay at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco two weeks later, and call down for a dirty martini, the information will be communicated to the bartender preparing their drink. This goes for room preferences as well – when that guest booked their room in Dallas, and asked for a high floor, king bed, corner room, 1 BR suite, that information was also saved in their profile, so when they call to book their room in San Francisco, the gentleman making the reservation will know to ask if they would like to request those same preferences for this trip as well. All new hires are also vetted for empathy, as intuitive listeners may be able to identify and capitalize on unvoiced needs or interests which can easily translate into opportunities to surprise and wow. Additionally, all ladies and gentlemen are authorized to address new client situations when they arise. For example, if the guest in San Francisco complained that his martini did not come with extra olives as he expected it would, the gentlemen who delivered the room service has, at his disposal, up to $2,000 to correct that, or any client dissatisfaction situation which arises, without going through channels and getting management approval. In this situation, the gentlemen could bring up more olives and offer the guest a free breakfast the next morning, on the spot, or whatever ameliorating resolution he felt appropriate. This empowerment provides the gentleman with ownership of the situation, rather than just ownership of the problem. And by providing an instant and creative correction to the problem, the gentleman can turn a difficulty into an opportunity to build brand loyalty. The Ritz-Carlton understands that the people at the reservation desk, bringing up the bags or providing turn-down service are the people who will have the most contact with their clients, and by developing in them a full understanding of the service philosophy, and empowering them to make independent choices to help achieve it, they create the environment necessary for their uniquely high level of service to flourish.

Best Practices

Throughout the presentation, Valori provided some best practices ladies and gentlemen employ to consistently provide guests with the best experience possible. One such tip was when you first meet a potential client, try and use their name three times during your initial conversation, so long as it does not become awkward or obvious that you are employing a best practice. By using someone’s name a few times during the initial encounter, you have a much better chance of remembering it the next time you see them.  When greeting a client, it is always recommended to use their name, as it is welcoming to be known, and tends make people feel special. Likewise, when saying goodbye, use the client’s name again, for the same reason. When conversing with a client, make sure that you are learning more about them than they are learning about you. To this end, if a client is talking about an issue that they are passionate about, ask them to tell you more about it. If you are discussing a topic which matters greatly to them, you are connecting in a personal, meaningful way. When preparing for a meeting, review the client’s history and profile so that you can take advantage of any information you gathered during your last meeting, e.g. if they drank Perrier last time, make sure you have some available at the meeting. By anticipating a client’s preferences, you can elevate your perceived value from good to great. And along these lines, after a meeting with a client, sending a personalized, hand written thank you note is a simple way to strengthen the emotional connection you have with the client, which can go a long way towards building their loyalty towards your brand.

Function vs. Purpose

At the end of the day, we all have jobs to do, certain functions we must perform. But what sets the ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton apart is that they perform all of their functions with a singular purpose – to identify and capitalize on opportunities to wow their guests. An example Valori provided was of a western guest staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore. The guest was there for a week, and each of the first two nights he ordered tea from room service before dinner, and sat down with a book in the room’s armchair.  At around that time, the lady doing his room’s turn down service came in, said a brief hello, fluffed up the bed, and dropped off the chocolate on the pillow. The third day the guest came back a little later than the first two days, and was surprised to see that the tea was there on the table, next to his book, along with a silk bookmark. When the guest sat down to open his book, his glasses fell onto the chair, and he sat on them. The next morning, he was down at the front desk taping his glasses back together. That night, he returned to his room, and saw the tea on the table, next to a small box and a note.  The note said in short, I noticed you left your glasses here when you went out, so I took them to a eyeglasses shop near the hotel, and although they were not able to match your frame, they were able to match your prescription. I hope these will suffice for the remainder of your trip. The impact from the thoughtful, personalized gesture was incalculable, and the result was a loyal (and vocal) customer for life.

Restless Renewal

The Ritz-Carlton has been the recipient of virtually every award within the luxury hotel space, and a big reason why is their commitment to what they call restless renewal. In short, it means always looking for new opportunities to improve. It entails a constant and thorough review of customer surveys, complaints and suggestions, and identifying a handful of issues after each review to fix or improve. The driving logic for restless renewal is simple: every engagement you have with a client either adds to or takes away from your brand’s perceived value.

Patricia Schlereth

Manager of First and Lasting Impressions

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