Our Ladies and Gentlemen: Olivia Brown

OliviaBrown2Each month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee — a Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton — in order to share an insider’s view of the organization. After completing her college studies in hotel and tourism management, Olivia Brown worked as an intern in the accounting department of a hotel. Proving to be a valuable employee, Ms. Brown was hired when the internship ended and a full-time position opened up. Today, having had experience in various departments throughout numerous hotels, Ms. Brown is the General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common.

RCLC: Ritz-Carlton properties have a well-earned reputation of being first-class hotels. What makes someone’s stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel so special?

Ms. Brown: At Ritz-Carlton hotels it’s not just what we say, it’s what we do. Every one of the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton is focused on taking care of our guests. Our highest mission is to create, unique, memorable, and personal experiences for our guests.

RCLC: How do you inspire your employees to have that same mind-set and create the “perfect” stay for a guest?

Ms. Brown: I’ve had many years of working with other brands — other hotel companies — and from that experience what I value most about working at The Ritz-Carlton is that I can offer my employees total empowerment in their jobs, which helps them provide the highest level of service for each guest.

RCLC: How do you empower employees?

Ms. Brown: We give them examples of situations where something may go wrong for a guest, and we talk about how to correct and improve the moment. We role play. It gives employees the understanding that they can take control of a situation and not wait for someone else to step in.

RCLC: Can you elaborate on the ways you help employees understand how and when to get involved in a situation?

Ms. Brown: Something we do very well at The Ritz-Carlton is to train our Ladies and Gentlemen to have their radar on and their antenna up at all times. We know that every interaction creates an opportunity to do something special for a guest. Some guests are here for business, some for social reasons and some because something terrible has happened, such as a death in the family. We train our employees to pick up on cues and to anticipate guests’ needs.

We also collect and share stories of how the ladies and gentlemen have found creative ways to meet the guests’ needs. By talking about these stories, we keep The Ritz-Carlton culture strong and encourage employees to say to themselves, “I can create an experience like that.”

RCLC: How do you continually reinforce that type of behavior for the 299 employees at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common?

Ms. Brown: When I witness or hear about an employee delivering a “wow” moment to a guest, or when they make decisions on their own that positively affect a guest, I recognize them with a First Class Card — a hand-written note — or a small gift. And that happens between employees too. Anyone can write a First Class Card to another employee in recognition of the good work everyone is doing. We are aware of our guests and each other.

RCLC: Ritz-Carlton employees apply 12 Service Values to their work. Which ones stand out to you the most and why?

Ms. Brown: I appreciate numbers one through three. They’re my favorite. They talk about building strong relationships with our guests, making them a guest for life, not just one visit. It ties back to our Credo and our highest mission — to genuinely care for our guests. And I especially appreciate that our Service Values don’t say, “You must do…” They start with, “I” and end by stating what an employee can do.

RCLC: What guest story, or “wow” moment, have you been part of that epitomizes how Ritz-Carlton encouraged you to fulfill a guest’s unexpressed wish and provide them with the ultimate guest experience?

Ms. Brown: I was up on our Club Lounge level and saw a “mature” couple admiring the city below. I engaged in conversation with them and learned they came to the hotel to celebrate 25 years of marriage and to rekindle their love. As we looked out the window to the city below, they pointed to a number of buildings, recounting what types of businesses were there 25 years ago. They said The Ritz-Carlton used to be a bank building, and it also happened to be where they met. They told me the Club Lounge was the bank’s boardroom. Immediately, I thought to myself, “What can we do to create a special moment for these guests?”

First, I looked at what was happening in the news 25 years ago and, along with my staff, we created a framed piece, noting historical facts from that era. We took photographs of them, sent a cake to their room and invited them to enjoy complimentary spa treatments. Later, when they dined at a restaurant across the street, we had champagne and dessert delivered to their table. It was a memorable experience for them.

RCLC: What do your employees see in you, their boss, that helps them become better employees?

Ms. Brown: I’m genuine, and they see that I’m approachable. I’m always thinking about them and getting to know them better. I want them to perform to their highest ability even when I’m not in the building. Trust is important; we’re one team all working for the same goal. The Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton define how successful we are. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.