How the famous Ritz Carlton is changing to remain relevant Sometimes, remaining relevant means recognizing that the one thing you're famous for, the one thing that got you to where you are, may not be the thing that gets you where you want to go. Take the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, fo instance. Arguably, no other institution is better known for its customer service. For more than 20 years their motto has been "ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." Employees have been reminded on a daily basis of the 20-point Ritz-Carlton service basics. No more. Now, they've declared 12 "service values" and employees are being asked to think for themselves rather than follow hard, fast, inflexible rules. Previously, for example, employees were chastised, even dismissed, for using folksy language ("Sure thing" or "No problem" instead of "Certainly. My pleasure"). Employees can now use their own judgment in deciding how to be true to the values without sticking with a "one size fits all" service edict. Why the change? Because today's customer is just as likely to be very casually dressed, younger, hipper and less welcoming of the formalities that traditional Ritz-Carlton customers have enjoyed. Today's millionaire could be a 30-year-old in jeans and a t-shirt who uses words like "dude" and talks on a cell phone while checking in at the front desk. Moreover, we can no longer assume that people with money also have great manners and high expectations. Sometimes, they're jerks who prefer a Prius to a limo and think great customer service means their wireless connection is free and the alarm clock on the bedside table accommodates their iPod. This change doesn't come without some risk, of course. There are many longtime guests who stay at the Ritz specifically because of its formality. They have every right to expect - and receive - the great, if prissy, service they've always received. This will be an interesting situation to watch. If I were a betting person, I'd say the Ritz can pull it off. It's all about great training, positive reinforcement of the right behaviors, and great word of mouth from customers... all elements that have helped them develop their reputation for a generation. I'm looking forward to staying at the Ritz in a few weeks on vacation and can hardly wait to see if I notice a difference in the service. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, let me know what you think about this change.


At July 06, 2006 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father in his late 60s is far more relaxed when it comes to travel. Like my husband, he does not always want to wear a tie/jacket to dinner, nor savor a cup of tea in a formal English drawing room. Older and younger people value excellent service, beautiful interiors and quality design. By relaxing the overall ambiance of the Ritz-Carlton experience, ones’ visit is tastefully enhanced. It sounds like Ritz-Carlton is right on track!

At July 06, 2006 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a fan of the Ritz-Carlton company too and delighted with this shift. The company has some of the best employees in the world and by allowing them more freedom and latitude to service and delight guests makes total sense. I also have to add that older guests are changing too.

At July 07, 2006 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that an established brand like the Ritz can change to adjust to its customers' needs/desires.

Whenever I hear the Ritz mantra, I'm reminded of a former client who often noted that the emphasis was in the wrong place. It should be ladies and gentlemen being served by ladies and gentlemen rather than "ladies and gentelmen serving ladies and gentlement." The latter in his opinion results in the prissy behavior to which you refer. And if these changes mean I'll be able to walk more than 5 feet without a staff member saying "hello" or asking how I'm doing, then amen! because sometimes when you're on vacation you just want to be left alone. :-)


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