The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company defines luxury. Few organizations are as synonymous with exceptional service and experience leadership as this Marriott International subsidiary. With 87 hotels in 29 countries (and growing), The Ritz-Carlton leads the hotel industry with an unparalleled service standard.
In the enduring battle for guest loyalty, The Ritz-Carlton reminds us that experiential moments drive business in the modern hotel industry. From the frontline housekeeper providing an evening's turndown service to the C-suite executives discussing recent "Wow Stories," The Ritz-Carlton has struck gold in translating its cultural service cues (company-specific service interaction guidelines, as models for excellence) into its distinct and well-admired "Gold Standards."
Owned and memorized by each Lady and Gentlemen (employees of The Ritz-Carlton), these core values are so essential to the company's service system that they are actually required elements of the uniform, in the shape of a pocket-sized "Credo card" carried by each member of the staff around the world. While Gallup surveys and numerous other metrics are employed by the company to facilitate an organization recognized twice with the U.S. Department of Commerce's Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards (1992 and 1999), the company can attribute much of its success to the consistency of excellence generated through the steadfast compliance with its core values.
Specifically, these Gold Standards consist of six key elements:
The Credo represents the pledge taken by each Lady and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton to embody the spirit of service expected of the brand:
The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
The Credo outlines the service value proposition of The Ritz-Carlton organization: to deliver unique and exceptional experiences that exceed both the latent wishes and unrealized needs of the guests.
While easy to recite, the company literally puts its money where its mouth is by simplifying employee initiative along the frontlines of guest interaction: every Lady and Gentlemen is empowered to spend as much as $2,000 per guest per day without managerial permission to execute unique guest experiences. Though often used to resolve guest opportunities (The Ritz-Carlton does not believe in problems, but rather in opportunistic service defects that can be remedied through personalized experiential offerings), the allowance can also be used by employees to design special surprises and delights (personalized amenities and service) and to wow (exceeding expectations) guests.
Each day, every Lady and Gentleman (from residence concierges in Boston to corporate executives at the Chevy Chase, Maryland headquarters) across the company engages in a pre-shift meeting, called a line-up. During these meetings, a standard document called the "Commitment to Quality" is shared across the brand to communicate business updates, reflections on Gold Standards, and an inspiring wow story (an account of a surprise and delight or opportunity resolution that created a unique experience at one of the hotels). The company maintains an enormous archive of these stories, which speak volumes to the dedication of the Ladies and Gentlemen creating goodwill and value through strong service and enlivenment of the Credo.
The Three Steps of Service
At The Ritz-Carlton, there is perhaps no clearer recognition of the fact that experiences are co-produced by service agents and guests alike than can be found in the Motto:
We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.
This simple expression speaks to the reality that employees and guests are to be treated as equals and that only together are genuine experiences created and memories made. The Motto also holds significance for support staff out of direct touch with the front lines of service, in the sense that the back-of-house teams (i.e. accounting, human resources, information technology, etc.) serve their fellow service-providing counterparts.
The Ritz-Carlton standardizes its personalized service interactions using a basic formula, known as the Three Steps of Service:
While the steps provide structure to service engagements, they do not constitute service scripting (prepared dialogue presented by a service provider to a guest). Instead, they remind the Ladies and Gentlemen to acknowledge guests as individuals with unique wants and needs requiring satisfaction. They also reinforce the service standards evaluated by AAA, Forbes Travel Guide, etc. (namely the frequent use of guests' names and the proper fulfillment of service requests): in the United States and Canada alone in 2015, 44 hotels received AAA Four or Five Diamond Awards and a second mix of 44 were awarded either four or five stars in the Forbes Travel Guide. Only through the consistent delivery of exceptional services - by way of the Three Steps of Service - is that scorecard of success feasible.
The Service Values
While the Three Steps of Service provide a structure for service interactions, the twelve Service Values serve as the terms and conditions by which those interactions are governed:
These guidelines for promoting the ethics and interests of all Ladies and Gentlemen - guests, employees, managers, and stakeholders alike - reinforce the idea that each employee should be confident in saying "I am proud to be Ritz-Carlton." The core values reflect the underlying service philosophies of the company and acknowledge each employee as a contributor to the success of the brand as a company and as an ideal.
Employees are frequently awarded "First Class Cards" by peers or managers in recognition of their subscription to the Service Values as exhibited in guest interactions. Furthermore, the top-performing Ladies and Gentlemen at each property have the opportunity to be recognized quarterly (and again on an annual basis) with "Five Star" awards acknowledging positive contributions made by employees and managers in service to guests and the company. Other forms of recognition include local awards, like the semi-annual "Great Idea" competition hosted by The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common to thank employees who invent or repair systems for conducting better business.
Continuous improvement is recognized directly and indirectly in a number of the Service Values and is key to the success of the organization's push towards total quality. Gallup surveys polled from guests and clients share analytical details relayed to all employees on a regular basis. At the same time, information systems track guest opportunities in an attempt to isolate trends for the purposes of identifying defects in the hopes of being able to find and remove their sources. At each property, operations analysts dissect defect reports and disseminate results during employee line-ups, making each employee aware of opportunities and allowing them the chance to think of creative solutions.
Through the Service Values, The Ritz-Carlton is capable of maintaining its brand integrity while empowering immediacy and quality execution across the entire organization.
The Sixth Diamond
The Employee Promise
Despite being the last of the Gold Standards discussed in this post, The Ritz-Carlton values its employees as its greatest resources as the Employee Promise indicates:
At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.
By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.
The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.
In an industry characterized by labor-intensity, The Ritz-Carlton recognizes that its Ladies and Gentlemen are responsible for creating the value contributive to the reputation of the brand. The company employs an extremely selective and competitive hiring process to recruit only the top candidates for inclusion in its organization. Once a part of the team, however, Ladies and Gentlemen have access to nearly unlimited resources as they serve guests and their fellow employees in an environment that fosters creativity, empowerment, and personal growth. Continuous feedback, regular performance reviews, formalized systems for mentoring and coaching, and certification-based training programs evoke a culture grounded in professional development. Relative to this point, a core metric used by corporate management to assess individual hotel performance is the internal promotion rate, derived from internal promotions that build leadership from the frontline upward; it is not uncommon to meet a general manager of a Ritz-Carlton hotel who has worked for the company for decades and who started his or her career as a banquet server, a front desk agent, or even a housekeeper.
Regarding empowerment, decision-making at the guest service level does not end with specific client interactions: on an annual basis, as part of company-wide line-ups, all employees participate in SWOT analyses to determine growth opportunities for their individual departments and properties and for the company at large. The results from these assessments are funneled to the corporate headquarters, where annual strategic plans are drafted and aligned with employee perceptions on strategy. This unique practice is evidence of the trust The Ritz-Carlton has in its Ladies and Gentlemen.
Memories Through Mystique
At its core, the philosophies of The Ritz-Carlton can best be described in the simple slogan of its latest promotional campaign: "Let us stay with you."
From California's Marina del Rey to Moscow, Russia, The Ritz-Carlton experience guarantees excellence, sustains loyalty, and leads the global hospitality industry as a pioneer of quality service.