Dear Ritz-Carlton: WOW Experiences for your Employees?

Dear Ritz-Carlton: Do you create WOW experiences for your employees like you do for guests? How do you set this up?

The above question is from an attendee atSymposium: Your Journey to Service Excellencein April. Answer from Jeff Hargett, Senior Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Absolutely! JPhoto of Jeff Hargettust as we engage with our guests, we engage with our colleagues to learn about the things they like and are important to them. From their first day of employment where we learn about their favorite snack and surprise them with it when they return from lunch, to the outpouring of clothes and groceries and even furniture for a colleague whose home burned down. We are constantly on the lookout for ways to surprise and delight! We do this for our colleagues because the way I look at it, behind the scenes is our laboratory, the place where we perfect our craft. Oftentimes in the troubled world we live in, a WOW can come from a genuine smile and a heartfelt, “How can I help?” delivered to a distressed customer or colleague. Never underestimate the power in WOW! If you create the work environment where co-workers go above and beyond for each other, imagine what they will do for your customers! 

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.

Guest Story: Expressed and Unexpressed Needs

To provide excellent customer service, your organization must meet and exceed the expressed and unexpressed needs of your customers or patients. Meeting the expressed needs of customers or patients seems rather straightforward. For example, a hotel guest might ask for an extra pillow or a wake-up call. It isn’t difficult to fulfill requests like those, but sometimes—like the example below—your customer or patient may have needs that are more complex.

Meeting Expressed Needs

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami recently had a guest with severe food allergies. The mom sent the following letter to the property after their visit.

“Our older son, 18, has severe food allergies. Prior to our visit, we exchanged emails and spoke with the Executive Chef. The Executive Chef asked questions about my son’s food preferences as well as special brands of foods that are safe for him. The chef team outdid themselves and made our trip the best vacation ever!!

“Upon our arrival, the chef team was ready for us and already had plans for my son’s breakfast and other meals. They made pancakes for him (which is a huge treat for him since making pancakes without eggs or milk is no easy feat). During our stay, my son was able to order a variety of creative and healthy meals, including a ‘real’ pizza (sans cheese) for the first time in his life! Our whole family enjoyed the club’s and restaurant’s food, and we were able to relax, knowing that our son’s food was safely prepared.”

Meeting Unexpressed Needs

Meeting the unexpressed needs of customers or patients takes a little detective work. Your employees must be on the lookout for clues about customers’ preferences. In the following guest story, the In-Room Dining Attendant didn’t simply pick up the dirty dishes. He paid attention to details and discovered a way to make the guest’s experience more enjoyable. He had his radar on and antenna up.

A guest at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha was celebrating his birthday on the second night of his stay at the hotel. The Guest Relations team decided to arrange a beautiful cake and card to be sent up to his room. Later that evening, the In-Room Dining Attendant went to deliver orange juice the guest had requested. Noticing that the guest had only eaten the blueberries off the top of the cake, the In-Room Dining Attendant asked the guest if there had been any problem with the surprise. While the guest was appreciative of the gesture, he explained to the In-Room Dining Attendant that he was very health conscious and careful about what he eats.

The In-Room Dining Attendant immediately returned to the kitchen and asked the Chef to prepare a sliced fruit platter featuring berries and seasonal fruits, as well as a jar of freshly squeezed orange juice. The In-Room Dining Attendant and several other Ladies and Gentlemen delivered the beautiful platter to the guest’s room, along with a card signed by the entire In-Room Dining team. The guest was very pleased by the surprise and thanked them graciously.

However, the In-Room Dining Attendant was not finished with his exceptional service to this guest. He requested the Pastry Chef bake bran muffins to include in the guest’s breakfast each morning, and informed the team of the guest’s preference for health-conscious foods. This ensured that each time the guest would order food, the team knew to offer healthy alternatives such as green salad rather than the dish’s usual side of french fries.

When the guest departed, he thanked each of the Ladies and Gentlemen he had interacted with during his stay.

Making Service Memorable

Service excellence happens when your employees are encouraged and willing to make extra efforts for your customers and patients. Meeting the needs of your customers and patients is a good first step. However, exceeding the expectations of your customers and patients results in personal, memorable service that builds brand loyalty. 

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: The Joy of “Surprise & Delight”

The last sentence of The Ritz-Carlton credo states: “The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” The story below is an example of recognizing and fulfilling an unexpressed wish in a unique way. It’s also an example of how using “surprise & delight” in customer service creates memorable guest experiences.


A woman came alone to the Abama Golf & Spa Resort in Tenerife, Spain, to spend a couple of days. She seemed a bit sad and lonely. However, the vacation was important as it was her escape from the cold and snow of her homeland and her chance to visit the beautiful island of eternal summer, Tenerife.

While the front office team was doing her check-in she mentioned that, unfortunately, none of her family members were able to come with her. The front desk agent noticed that the woman was having her 65th birthday during her stay and probably felt a bit sad because she would be spending her birthday alone. The front desk agent gave her warm congratulations for her day and asked her if there was anything the hotel staff could do for her. The guest shared her desire to have dinner in the great M.B. restaurant that night for her birthday.


After finishing the check-in, the front desk agent got the idea to make something special for the guest in order to make her night and her birthday special and memorable. While the guest was dining in the M.B., the front desk team worked with housekeeping to prepare a beautiful hot bath for the guest. The bath was decorated with rose petals, and there were candles everywhere. To make the experience even more special, they placed a cold bottle of Champagne and a card wishing her all the best and a “Happy Birthday!”

The guest was amazed by this thoughtful gesture, and she immediately called the front desk to thank the staff for creating such a special moment. Early in the morning, she came to reception to personally thank the staff for her birthday surprise. She got tears in her eyes while explaining that it had been a long time since anyone had made something so beautiful for her and that she would never have expected to receive this special attention while staying at a hotel. She was amazed by her birthday experience and said that she will never forget her 65th birthday. 

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.