The Ritz-Carlton: A Tradition of Storytelling

Storytelling is an important part of The Ritz-Carlton culture. The employees of The Ritz-Carlton—known as The Ladies and Gentlemen—write up special moments and share them with the corporate office. These write-ups are called “Wow” stories, and several thousand stories are collected each year. “Wow” stories can happen when Ladies and Gentlemen interact with customers, residents, colleagues, and even during community service events.

What transforms an ordinary moment into a “Wow” story is genuine care that fulfills a need. Some of the “Wow” stories are about simple, small gestures, and some of the stories are about grand and creative acts.

Sharing Stories of Service

Each week two “Wow” stories are communicated during Daily Line-Up—a meeting that includes every Lady and Gentleman around the world. “Wow” stories are shared for multiple reasons. The stories:

  • illustrate how The Ritz-Carlton culture is enlivened
  • reinforce our collective purpose
  • demonstrate how colleagues are fulfilling the service value, “I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”

The stories also help to instill pride and passion. The “Wow” story below was recently shared at Daily Line-Up and is a great example of why our Ladies and Gentlemen are proud to say, “I am Ritz-Carlton.”

A Recent “Wow” Story

A guest came for an extended stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common while he underwent a series of medical procedures at a local hospital. His wife had accompanied him to the hotel to care for him and assist him during his stay. Their stay lasted for several weeks and while the wife was clearly glad to be with her husband, the Ladies and Gentlemen could tell that she was exhausted.

During one of the nights of their stay, the wife approached the front desk and spoke with the Front Desk Agent. The wife asked to book a second room for the following night so that she could watch the “71st Golden Globe Awards” without disturbing her husband’s rest.

Creating a “Wow” Moment

Knowing that the past few weeks had been difficult for the wife, the Front Desk Agent wanted to do something that would help her relax and enjoy the night. He planned to turn one of the deluxe rooms into a personal VIP Golden Globes viewing party. Luckily his fellow Front Desk Agent had worked at the Golden Globes awards ceremony in the past, and helped him create an authentic Golden Globes experience. Together, they created a gift bag similar to the ones given to the actors and actresses. They even took the time to create and send a special VIP invitation to the guest’s room. The Guest Relations Supervisor helped the Front Desk Agent decorate the room with flowers, Golden Globe magazines, gold and white balloons and a red carpet made of fresh red rose petals. For the final touches, they placed champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and popcorn for her to enjoy while she watched the show.

When the Front Desk Agent escorted the wife to her room, she was astonished. She tearfully told him that the past year had been very difficult with her husband’s health and other illnesses within her family. She repeatedly thanked the Front Desk Agent and told him that he had made her year. She could not believe the hotel would go to such lengths for her. Her husband even came to enjoy some of the party and was thrilled by the gesture the Ladies and Gentlemen had made for his wife. Throughout the night, the wife would call down to the front desk and update the Front Desk Agent on the results of the evening, each time thanking him again for everything he had done.

The Impact of Storytelling

Imagine starting your workday by hearing a “Wow” story like the above—a story that shows the dedication and authentic kindness of your colleagues. Organizations that commit to storytelling create positive work environments that stimulate employee engagement. Not only that—they help spread happiness, and doesn’t that make everyone’s life a little better? 

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. 

Genuine Customer Care

Is it real? It’s a question you have to ask when you find out that Twitter stories turn out to be hoaxes, reality TV shows can be manufactured, and even foods can be more artificial than real. No one likes to feel tricked or manipulated. This is especially true in customer service. The Credo of The Ritz-Carlton states that: “the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.” Genuine service must come from the heart, and your customers will sense if your kindness is an act or the real deal.

What makes each of the two guest stories below so special is that the staff—also known as the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton—genuinely connected with the guests. The Ladies and Gentlemen’s actions were motivated by real caring, and the responses from the guests show how much authentic thoughtfulness is appreciated.

Baby’s First Gift

One morning, a Spa Attendant at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, greeted a new guest at the Spa. The woman was scheduled for a pre-natal massage, and the Spa Attendant set to work immediately to make her feel relaxed and comfortable. In talking with the guest, the Spa Attendant learned that the guest was expecting the little one in just a few months. The woman disclosed that she and her husband were feeling a little nervous about the life change ahead for them, but were looking forward to their new adventure.

During the day at the Spa, the Spa Attendant felt she had built a strong bond with the soon-to-be mother, and decided to make a special gift to commemorate the couple’s new journey into parenthood. Her creative and artistic abilities kicked into high gear and that night she began crafting a full-sized ‘baby adventure book.’ Each page offered an area for a photograph and handwritten note by mom or dad. To add to the baby joy, she sewed 12 different onesies—one for each month of the baby’s first year! Once complete, the Spa Attendant sent her handmade gifts with a personalized note inviting them to continue visiting the hotel once the baby was born.

A few days later the hotel received the following note from the guest: “I just received a package from your Spa Attendant … and I am seriously blown away. I am completely overwhelmed and shocked at such a wonderful sweet handmade gift! I LOVED all of it! Thank you!”

Remembering A Special Guest

After the passing of a guest’s beloved wife, the guest wrote the following note:

“I am writing to you to express my deep and sincere THANKS to the Guest Relations Team at The Ritz-Carlton, Shenzhen. You will be aware of the circumstance that prompted my return to this hotel. When my (now late) wife and I were here in May this year, all the staff were incredibly caring and conscious of my wife’s limitations. Nothing was too much trouble and the Club floor team always remembered her name and asked about her general health. She was diagnosed with a chronic muscle condition 10 years ago, which meant a gradual decline in her muscle capability. She had a wonderful time during our visit. She was unable to walk, so she spent a lot of time in the Club Lounge area. No one expected her to lose her health so quickly, but she passed away suddenly, 5 weeks after our visit to Shenzhen.

So, as part of my grieving and to personally thank the staff at The Ritz-Carlton, I have made the trip back. I am OVERWHELMED with the sincerity, care and kindness shown by your team. To be greeted with flowers, a handmade card, and a specially made personal video is something I will never forget. I cannot express my thanks enough to the Ladies and Gentlemen for their thoughtfulness, time and effort in putting together that video. I have a copy to show to my family back in Australia. My wife and I travelled to many international cities around the world and stayed in 5-star hotels everywhere, and we have never (never) experienced the level of personal care and attention that your team provided us. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks to ALL of you.”

Creating memorable and personal customer experiences begins with genuine customer engagement. Diana Oreck, Former Vice President of The Leadership Center, advises: “Do not treat your customers in a transactional fashion—as just a head in bed, a deposit/withdrawal or a medical procedure. Your customers are real people, and they want to be recognized as unique individuals.” True customer caring is not manufactured or mass-produced. True caring is real and really appreciated. 

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. 

Making Romantic Moments Memorable

The following romantic guest stories illustrate how the employees—the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton—make extra efforts to create unique, personal and memorable customer experiences.

A Last-Minute Wedding

A frequent guest of the hotel decided to celebrate her 80th birthday by inviting all of her children and grandchildren to spend a long weekend at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

Her grandson attended the reunion with his new fiancée. During breakfast the first morning, the couple told the octogenarian birthday girl that they liked the hotel so much that they wanted to have their wedding there. Being one to seize the moment, the octogenarian immediately offered to host their wedding for them that weekend. After all, the entire family was already together. The couple loved the idea, and they happily agreed.

The couple contacted the events team at the hotel to see if they could have their wedding that night. The Ladies and Gentlemen were more than happy to take on the challenge of the last-minute request. The Director of Food and Beverage and the Meetings and Special Events Manager created a special menu, ordered a wedding cake, and set up a beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony site. They also had flower arrangements and a bouquet made up for the bride to carry down the aisle. The Concierge arranged a car to take the bride dress shopping and called around until she found a local musician and photographer available that night for the ceremony. Luckily, the Guest Relations Coordinator is licensed to perform weddings and volunteered to officiate the wedding.

Due to the hard work of the all the Ladies and Gentlemen the wedding preparations were made in time and the family was delighted by their ability to pull together such a wonderful event in so little time. The octogenarian birthday girl was so impressed by their efforts that she said that the family would return for all their “warm weather and family reunion needs.”

A Special Engagement Anniversary

A guest approached the Concierge at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Almaty in order to make a dinner reservation. The guest was planning to celebrate the two-year anniversary of his engagement with his (now) wife. The Concierge took the guest on a complete tour of all property restaurants in order to find the perfect location.

The Concierge then began preparing a special evening for the couple. Because the wife would be wearing a long dress and could not walk the long distance to the restaurant, arrangements were made with Loss Prevention for special parking privileges. The piano player in the restaurant started practicing the couple’s favorite song, and the wife’s favorite flowers were ordered. And of course, a heart-shaped cake was also made for the special occasion.

When the guests arrived at the restaurant, the pianist immediately started playing their favorite song. Their private corner by the window looked like a movie set. Not only was their table decorated with the wife’s favorite flowers, but the table also had an amazing mountain view, overlooking the place where she said “Yes” two years ago.

Under the Concierge’s close supervision, the dinner went perfectly and the couple enjoyed an amazing celebration. Upon their departure, their favorite song was played once again. The wife was in tears and mentioned that The Ritz-Carlton was now their new favorite place in town.

A Valentine’s Surprise

On February 13th, a couple arrived at The Ritz Carlton, Sanya, and the husband casually mentioned to the Villa Assistant Manager that he wanted to give his wife a surprise on Valentine’s Day. The Villa Assistant Manager immediately set up a “Romantic Task Force” team.

On the evening of February 14th, the “Romantic Task Force” team waited until the couple left their room. Then the team sprung into action and began decorating. At the entrance of the room, they put the characters for “I Love You” in roses, and they wrote “forever” in rose petals on the bedroom floor. Candles and rose petals adorned the bathroom, and a pair of mandarin ducks made of towels was placed on the bed.

The Chef from the restaurant Fresh 8, the In-Room Dining supervisor, and Room Service set up a romantic table by the pool where the couple would be able to listen to the sea breezes while enjoying a special Valentine’s Day dinner. The Villa Butler placed a crystal ball on the table—which made the entire villa shimmer and sparkle.

Just when all the decorations were completed, the couple returned to the hotel room. The wife screamed in surprise as she walked in. Then the couple sat at their poolside table, and the Villa Butler brought out a big bunch of roses. The wife was so happy that she cried, and there were tears in the husband’s eyes as well. The husband expressed his thanks to the team for not only giving his wife a surprise, but also for surprising him. 

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. 

Guest Story: Exceptional Care

A Sudden Illness 

A Front Desk Agent was working the night shift at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre, when a guest came down to the lobby and appeared to be very unwell and seemed very worried and sick. She told the Front Desk Agent that she was not feeling well, but she could hardly speak. The Front Desk Agent offered to call the doctor who would be able to arrive within a half-hour, but she did not want to wait so long. Sensing the urgency of the situation, the Front Desk Agent informed the Night Manager that he needed to have someone cover the front desk while he took care of this distressed guest. The Front Desk Agent then called a taxi. The guest could not even walk by herself, so the Front Desk Agent helped her to the taxi and escorted her to the American Hospital.

Once there, they were informed that the hospital administration needed a copy of the patient’s passport before being able to start treatment. The Front Desk Agent contacted the hotel and a copy of the passport was emailed to the hospital instantly. The Front Desk Agent filled out the registration form and other necessary paperwork, and the hotel guest was then admitted to the ICU. The doctors told the Front Desk Agent that she had had a nervous breakdown because of being over-stressed.

A Hospital Stay

The Front Desk Agent stayed by her side in the hospital until she was able to regain her calm and could speak. She was still very nervous, and even asked the Front Desk Agent to call her daughter at home to tell her that she loved her very much, should she not see her again. The Front Desk Agent stood by her and calmed her down, and assured her that she was going to be fine, and that the doctors were taking good care of her. However, the Front Desk Agent had been very concerned about the state of the guest. The doctors and hospital staff were very surprised when they found out that the Front Desk Agent was a hotel employee and not the patient’s family as they had thought. They said they have seen other hotels bring their guests to the hospital, but the employee goes back to the hotel leaving their guests in the care of the doctors and nurses. This was the first time they had seen a hotel employee stand by his guest like his own family.

Comfort and Care

The Front Desk Agent brought the guest back to the hotel in the morning and made sure that the team was aware of all necessary arrangements to be made in her room for her to get well soon. With such genuine care, the guest mentioned that she felt so safe and comfortable in the hands of the amazing Ladies and Gentlemen of the hotel. She got well and a few days later went back home.

When she returned home, she told her family about the exceptional care she experienced from the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre, particularly The Front Desk Agent, who subsequently received many calls from the guest’s parents and siblings and other family members, thanking him for taking such good care of her when she was distressed and so far away from home. 

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. 

Guest Story: Hand-Crafted Details

Ownership at The Ritz-Carlton is not just about executives and managers. It’s about each employee taking responsibility and working to fulfill the needs’ of guests. The following guest story illustrates how an employee can own and resolve a problem and fulfill customer needs.

A Wedding in Spain

One of the responsibilities of the Catering Manager at Hotel Arts Barcelona, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Spain, is to take care of weddings organized off-site. The Catering Manager was contacted by a couple from New York City looking to organize their wedding in Barcelona, where the bride’s parents and relatives are originally from. The couple wanted to have a Jewish wedding. All their wishes and dreams had been expressed and discussed with the Catering Manager. The wedding would be arranged in a nearby castle, Castillo de St Marçal, and would involve a lot of equipment and staff.

When the couple landed in Spain a few days before the wedding, the bride called the Catering Manager and advised her that her tulle canopy (chuppah in the Jewish tradition) had been lost at the airport during the transport. The bride was desperate to find a new one, as it was really a key element of her wedding ceremony. The Catering Manager looked for a similar model available among her providers, but nothing was available.  It seemed like nothing could be done in time for the wedding.

Perfection is in the Details

Four days before the wedding, the bride was starting to imagine her wedding without the perfect setting she had always dreamed of. The Catering Manager didn’t want to let that happen and decided to convert her own garden canopy into a wonderful chuppah without saying this to the bride. Back home, the Catering Manager asked her mother for advice in sewing the canopy and started the work. Helped by her mother and family, she finished assembling the element in the garden of the family house.

On the day of the wedding, the Catering Manager and her colleague took the tulle “chuppah” out on the large balcony where the wedding would be celebrated and re-assembled it with care. Everything was ready and waiting for the celebration: flowers, chairs, buffets had been installed on the forefront of the castle.

Wedding of Her Dreams

When the bride and groom arrived, they could not believe the beauty of the environment, but when the bride noticed the tulle canopy and realized she would be able to seal her wedding in the setting she had always dreamed of, she simply stood breathless. Her enthusiasm and her excitement were such, that her family and the whole team from Hotel Arts shared this joy.

The day was a success, and the bride sent a personal note to the management to let them know how much she was impressed by the event: “Everything was exceptional, down to the smallest details. I wanted to highlight how you fulfilled my dream of having a tulle canopy as I was hoping for, if not better. I know the Catering Manager personally took charge of this, and she was also carefully looking after each single detail, at all times before and during the wedding. The wedding would not have been the same without her.” 

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. 

Guest Story: Memorable Customer Relationships

Reducing turnover is another benefit of engaged employees. Employee retention financially benefits your company, but more importantly, it provides the invaluable opportunity of creating meaningful customer relationships with your clients. The following guest story beautifully exemplifies this point.

Relationships that Last

A couple checked into The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel at the beginning of January. The first night they were having dinner and the gentleman asked the Restaurant Manager if a specific Server still worked in the restaurant. The customer told the Manager that he used to come to the restaurant many years ago and that this specific Server ALWAYS took care of them. Just at that moment that same Server came around the corner. When the two gentlemen saw each other they immediately recognized each other. They shared hugs and had beaming smiles.

The Server wondered why he had not seen the family in so long. Every year the couple would vacation at the resort and they would bring their whole family, but they had not been back in about 4-5 years. The Server learned the reason was that one of the older family member’s health started to decline, which did not leave much time for vacation. It was a sad topic, but the family was just so happy to be back and reunited with their “Ritz-Carlton Family.”

A Special Memento

Throughout their stay, they visited the different Food & Beverage (F&B) outlets and made friends with the staff. The Server came to the F&B management team and said, “I really want to do something that would be special for this family. They are having a blast and I want them to remember this happy time.” The team thought about it and came up with the idea of capturing the weekend by taking some pictures of the friends and family around the hotel. The Server was able to capture pictures of them with each other and with the staff. The Ladies and Gentlemen then put all the pictures together in a photo album and each Lady and Gentleman signed the first page and wished them “All the Happiness and Joy for an amazing 2012.” The photo album, along with a letter from the Ladies and Gentlemen was sent to the couple’s home. 

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. 

Guest Story: Memorable Customer Service

Every Monday and Friday at our morning line ups, The Ritz-Carlton shares guest stories submitted by our hotels around the world. Each guest story illustrates the genuine care and comfort and sense of well-being our Ladies and Gentlemen (a.k.a. The Ritz-Carlton employees) provide for our guests. The following guest story is a letter recently written to the Corporate Office by a frequent business traveler and executive. (Editor’s note: we have removed the names of employees from the letter below.)

Letter from Guest

“I have had the pleasure of staying at The Ritz-Carlton hotels over the past 20 years as it has frequently been the hotel of choice for my organization’s annual meetings. Most notably, The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City has been the site of our annual meetings in Washington, D.C. The Ritz-Carlton customer service has always been well above the norm. From being greeted by name at the front desk upon arrival (I think I figured out how you accomplish this so flawlessly) to the friendly smiles and greetings by staff at every turn, my stays at your hotels have always been memorable.

On my most recent trip to Pentagon City, however, my experience went from memorable to overwhelming! Upon my arrival, I received the usual warm greeting from the Front Desk Manager. During my check-in, she inquired whether or not I had a Rewards Card and perhaps might I be interested in applying for one. I declined, explaining to her that I would be retiring at the end of the year and likely this was my last stay at The Ritz-Carlton. She congratulated me warmly and sent me off with her best wishes for a pleasant stay.

Memorable Customer Service

I went through long days of meetings over the next two days. On the third day after morning meetings, I returned to my room only to be surprised by an array of 5 small red velvet cupcakes, topped with my organization’s logo and a lovely note of congratulations on my retirement, signed by 22 members of The Ritz-Carlton staff! If this wasn’t enough, the card and cakes were accompanied by a gift of the signature Ritz-Carlton robe along with a note that read as follows: ‘Please enjoy this gift on behalf of the Ladies & Gentlemen. We thought you might like it to relax in during your retirement! Warm regards, the Guest Relations Coordinator’

The emotions felt at that moment were, as I stated earlier, simply overwhelming! Customer service is one thing. This is quite another. This is genuine. This is authentic. I no longer felt like a customer. I felt like family.

The next morning, as I was working with the concierge desk to have this wonderful gift shipped home as my small carry-on luggage could not accommodate the robe, the Front Desk Manager came over, smiled and with no hesitation, offered to take care of shipping the item to my home here.

I am tearing up as I write this, as I will always remember the warmth and generous spirit that the Front Desk Manager exuded and that the members of the staff displayed. Each and every time I put on that robe I will think of it as a ‘warm hug’ from the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City.” 

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. 

Welcome to Gold Minds Blog

Each week The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center will share thoughts on customer service, patient experience, leadership development, employee engagement and other related topics. The articles will also showcase some of the most effective business practices from The Ritz-Carlton—proven principles that result in greater job satisfaction, innovative growth and increased success. We’ve called our blog Gold Minds because this is the place where we will share our most refined thinking and create a gold mine of knowledge about the business practices of The Ritz-Carlton.

Inspiration from Guest Stories

Once a month we will also share one of the guest stories from The Ritz-Carlton hotels. One element of The Ritz-Carlton culture is to collect and share our memorable guest stories. We collect thousands of stories each year, and we look forward to sharing some of these stories with you. Stories are emotional transportation, and we hope our guest stories will inspire you as much as they inspire us.

The guest stories illustrate our highest standards of customer service, and although we strive for perfection, not all of our customer interactions are home runs. In the TedTalk, “Brian Goldman: Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?”, physician Brian Goldman points out that a baseball player who hits the ball three out of 10 times has a batting average of 300 and that’s considered good. In fact, a player who hits the ball four out of 10 times is considered legendary.

Our guest stories are examples of our legendary service, and on occasion, we will also share stories of times we swung and missed and the steps we took to rectify the situation. Although we strive to meet each customer’s needs, we’re also thankful for the gift of customer feedback that helps us improve and strengthen our business.

Subscribe to Gold Minds Blog

You can subscribe to Gold Minds Blog and receive a weekly email when we post a new article. If there any topics you would like us to cover, please share your ideas with us. Thank you for your interest in benchmarking the philosophy and culture of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. 

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.