A “Ritz” Experience… Customer service heroes still do exist!

I would like to share a story about one of my customer service heroes. I have many, but this particular hero is a very special group of people who are constantly striving to achieve excellence in service.  The experience I will share with you demonstrates perfectly how the right people, equipped with the right systems and processes, framed in the right environment, will produce customer service excellence.

During the course of my professional life, I have stayed at some of the finest hotels in the world. And although there have been bright service stars among them, there have been unfortunately, too many failures.  However, no experience to this day, compares with the outstanding service my wife and I had during our stay at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, Florida.

From the time the gatekeeper greeted us with a friendly and genuine “hello” combined with positive eye contact, my expectations were being set.  The moment we arrived at the front door, the exceptional service began. Certainly, the valet staff was attentive and extremely polite; however, as they opened our car door, they greeted us by name.  Since we had never been to the hotel before, I knew the gatekeeper must have called our name to the valet staff…a smart and easy solution.  They quickly gathered our bags from the trunk and escorted us to the front desk.  When I said “thank you,” their reply was “It is my pleasure.” How simple and sweet those words were.  I never heard “no problem” or some other, less-than-gracious reply but simply, “It is my pleasure.”

The front desk staff was well-spoken and attentive.  Our check-in was gracious and accurate, but what really stood out was their genuinely sincere attitude about us being their guests for a few days in their hotel.  Of course, my being in the business of teaching others how to achieve the highest levels of customer service excellence, I was truly inspired.  And what occurred over the next three days was an experience that continued to impress me at every turn and with every contact.  I expected much of it; the well-groomed staff, the immaculate landscaping, the beautifully decorated and well-appointed rooms. And certainly, the beautiful ocean view and warm breezes were priceless, but nothing could match the attitude, enthusiasm and personal care my wife and I received from the staff.  We were both in awe at the staff’s willingness and commitment to making our stay truly special.

And this exceptional care was not just from the primary contact staff. Even the maids looked as though every hair was in place, and their uniforms were perfectly pressed. Everyone made a conscious effort to greet us no matter what his or her job was. From towel boy and landscaper to air conditioning technician, everyone greeted you with a friendly “hello”. You expect this kind of engagement from the valet, desk staff or pool attendants but not from everyone else. Everyone on the staff had a serving attitude, and a sparkle in his or her eyes. When you chose to chat a bit with a waiter, he or she was ready to engage in conversation. When we chose to have privacy, they were never intrusive. It was perfect.

And more than just having a good attitude, the hotel management staff utilized simple technology to aid their staff in caring for their guests.  Through the use of headsets and two-way radios, they went the extra mile to assure their staff members were equipped to access information and communicate with each other in the quest for service excellence.

Are there other hotels that can match up? There are others that can and do achieve this level of total customer service excellence; however, they are the exception, not the rule. If you are thinking that you are not the Ritz Carlton, that’s okay; you don’t have to be.  What I am speaking of here are standards of service excellence that anyone can attain if they really want to and are willing to do what it takes.

Too often, businesses deliver customer service that is less than they could achieve, because management sets the standard too low. Set the bar high and keep the bar high, and you will more than likely attain excellent customer service more often.

When on vacation with my wife, or family, I want to know that we will receive excellent service and enjoy every aspect of the property. The Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne has set that expectation for my family. Without a doubt, we will return to this hotel again and again. In fact, since this first visit, we have returned for another stay and have referred many of our friends to this hotel.   And yes, the service was outstanding on our second visit as well.  Fortunately, some good things do last!

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