Fostering Great Service

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Great service comes from the heart. If you have the spirit to serve and are genuine, you can extend personalized service.

DOs and DON’Ts of Fostering Great Service

  • DO try to hire employees who already have a passion for service. Passion produces an intense emotional connection and employees who are driven by service are more willing to make extra efforts for customers.
  • DON’T neglect the onboarding process and make sure culture is included in orientation sessions. Even employees who have a passion for service need a thorough understanding of your organization’s mission and values in order to better align their service with your culture.
  • DO make sure new hires understand their purpose as well as their day-to-day role. For example, a housekeeper’s role may be to put clean sheets on the bed, but her purpose is to provide genuine care to guests.
  • DON’T neglect training employees. Even employees who have natural abilities need training. The Ritz-Carlton believes in service excellence training and dedicates more than 250 hours to this practice annually.
  • DO empower employees. When you empower employees you’re telling them, “We select the best talent, and we trust you.” Empowered employees bring accountability, creativity and innovation to the workplace.
  • DON’T neglect creating service standards. Although you want employees to go above and beyond, you have to be clear about your service expectations. 

Significant Stat: Workday Interruptions

Research shows nurses in acute care complete 100 tasks per shift, with interruptions every three minutes. (source)

Advice from Alexandra Valentin, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Interruptions are a normal part of the workday. However, interrupting a nurse or other medical professional can compromise the patient experience—or worse, cause medical errors. Poor teamwork and ineffective communication among team members can contribute toward interruptions. One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton focuses on creating “an environment of team work and lateral service so that needs of our guests and each other are met.” Teamwork is not a “nice to have,” it’s a “must have” that is owned by every Lady and Gentleman. To minimize communication failures, Ladies and Gentlemen at The Ritz-Carlton facilitate a daily meeting known as Line-up. Line-up provides both operational information needed for the day and content that connects the Ladies and Gentlemen back to our culture and purpose. Effective and productive teamwork can only happen when all team members understand the goal and the purpose of the organization. 

Our Enrichment Courses immerse clients in The Ritz-Carlton ambience while offering philosophical and tactical service excellence knowledge. Please visit our Course Calendar to learn more about our upcoming courses and to register. 

Etiquette & Engagement: Tasteful

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Engagement Tip: Ladies and gentlemen are tasteful in their professional appearance.

What is tasteful? Some people may feel a designer suit is appropriate attire—while others may feel that tasteful simply means you showered this morning. No matter what your definition of “tasteful” is, your appearance should not detract from your job and should not be a distraction to others. Your pajamas may be crazy cute, but if you wear them to work, you will probably make your customers and co-workers uncomfortable. Likewise, that outfit you wore for a night of bar hopping is probably not the best choice for a traditional business environment. You clothing should reflect your work environment. For example, you wouldn’t wear high heels and a pencil skirt to run on a treadmill, and you probably shouldn’t wear your yoga pants to a business meeting (unless yoga is part of the meeting). One of the Service Values at The Ritz-Carlton is, “I am proud of my professional appearance, language, and behavior.” Our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—want to be remembered for their excellent customer service—and not for any questionable fashion choices. 

The motto of The Ritz-Carlton is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto sets a tone of goodwill and grace for all.

Dear Ritz-Carlton: Service Values

Dear Ritz-Carlton: What’s the difference between The Ritz-Carlton Service Values and The Ritz-Carlton service standards?

Answer from Joseph Quitoni, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Photo of Joseph Quitoni

The Ritz-Carlton service standards define not only what our guests are looking for, but also how service should be articulated in order to be maintained at the highest level. Service Values are a set of guidelines provided to the employees of The Ritz-Carlton—our Ladies and Gentlemen—that focus on the outcomes that are needed in an effort to produce legendary service for each and every one of our guests. Each of the 12 Service Values start with the letter “I” to demonstrate the personal power each employee has to bring them to life through our service interactions with guests. To view the difference through another lens, the service standards refer to the “what” while the Service Values refer to the “how” behind the legendary service of The Ritz-Carlton.

Join us for a one-day symposium, “Your Journey to Service Excellence.” The day includes a keynote speaker, a Q&A session with The Ritz-Carlton executive panel, an optional networking reception and presentations about legendary service, employee engagement and a customer-centric culture.

Service Standards: Create, Disseminate and Reiterate

In order to build a reputation for legendary customer service, your organization must be able to execute service excellence consistently. Consistency is the key ingredient. Companies like Starbucks, Apple and The Ritz-Carlton ensure service uniformity by having clear service standards.

Your staff should realize:

  • their overall purpose in your organization;
  • the responsibilities of their individual role;
  • AND the specific customer service standards you would like implemented in that role.

The first step toward improved efficiency and reliable service is to create written service standards for each position in your organization.

STEP 1 – Create Your Service Standards

Written customer service standards should be detailed and clear, but not so rigid that your staff seems scripted and robotic. For example, if you have employees who speak to clients on the phone, you might include the following in their service standards:

  1. Always answer the phone by the third ring.
  2. Smile as you answer the phone and have a positive attitude.
  3. Provide a warm greeting (never say “hey,” “howdy” or “hi there!”) and then share your first name, the name of our organization, and offer to help your customer—i.e., “Hello. This is Albert at the Incredible Store. How may I help you today?”

As you create service standards for each role, think through all possible scenarios where your employee might interact with a customer. Will your employee ever be on an elevator with a customer? If so, you might want to include elevator etiquette in your guidelines. Is your employee going to be responsible for cleaning your facilities? If so, you might want to detail how often cleaning should occur. Does the recycling need to be emptied each night? How often should dusting occur? When you make your expectations clear, your employees don’t have to guess or make up standards for themselves, and consequently, they’ll be able to use their time more effectively.

If your employees are responsible for paperwork or responding to customers promptly, you may want to indicate time limits. Here’s an example from the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA):

  • “95% of responses to written inquiries are accurate and issued within 30 days.
  • At least 97.5% of telephone calls are answered within 120 seconds.
  • 98% of all claims are processed within 60 days.”

Along with specific tasks, you might include suggestions about maintaining a professional presence that includes a positive attitude, good posture, eye contact and proper dress. Written service standards can also help eliminate potential workplace drama. Suppose Fred begins wearing flip flops to work and his manager decides that flip flops aren’t professional. But Suzy works at a branch office and her manager doesn’t mind when she wears flip flops. Now Fred feels his manager is being unfair. When professional appearance is established by your organization’s brand and service standards—and not by individual managers—this allows for more universal and equitable treatment.

Finally, you’ll want to be aware of cost, time, and resources as you create standards. Be sure your service standards are economically feasible and executable. Your goal should be excellent and efficient standardized service.

STEP 2 – Disseminate Your Service Standards

Once you have your written service standards, you need to establish how you will share them throughout your organization. Disseminating means more than handing employees a piece of paper and asking them to read it. When you’re introducing service standards for the first time, you must strategically plan your roll-out and implementation in order to garner employee buy-in. If your employees don’t embrace your new standards, you won’t achieve improved service.

Service standards may sound like new rules to your employees and people don’t generally appreciate having more rules. You must share the benefits with your employees such as:

  • more consistent service that will improve your organization’s service reputation
  • a clear understanding of service expectations can lead to greater employee empowerment

You’ll also have to decide how new employees will be introduced to your service standards. At The Ritz-Carlton, service standards are presented during the onboarding process, and learning coaches train new staff on proper execution.

STEP 3 – Reiterate Your Service Standards

Once your service standards have been implemented, you will need to remind employees about the importance of following through. You can achieve this through several methods including verbal reminders, e-communications, and offering ongoing training opportunities. At The Ritz-Carlton, service standards are often highlighted through service stories and at daily meetings. These standards should become habits for all of your employees. Written service standards should also be reviewed regularly to make sure they are relevant to the customer. If your customers’ needs have changed, your service standards should be adjusted.

Rewards of Customer Service Standards

Written service standards help your employees, your customers and your organization. Your employees will know what’s expected of them and they’ll be able to function more efficiently. In addition, written service standards are a good step toward employee empowerment. Empowered employees feel more trusted and valued, and they’re able to resolve customer problems faster because they don’t need to funnel problems through layers of management. Your employees will be more engaged, and as a result, your customers will receive better service. As your reputation for service excellence grows, your organization will attract more customers and more business. Drafting service standards for every position in your organization may seem like an arduous undertaking, but any task that leads to greater profits and success is certainly a step worth taking. 

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.