#82 – Reflections on Best Practices in Customer Service
Written by Alex Abisch
Director of Strategic Implementation
Are Ritz Carlton’s Gold Standards transferable to the working world of social impact? My coworker and I were given a free stay at a Ritz Carlton hotel of our choosing as a thank-you for another successful year at SchermCo. This gift came at an opportune time; the SchermCo book club had just finished reading The New Gold Standard: five principles for creating a legendary customer service experience courtesy of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company. The book explains the Ritz Carlton’s approach to employee training and customer-centered standards. It also shares key service insights transferable across industries. So, I accepted SchermCo’s generous gift and booked my reservation at the Ritz Carlton on 22nd St in Washington, DC. My mission was simple. I boarded the plane, ready to determine how the Ritz Carlton’s Gold Standards compare to my daily work at SchermCo.
It’s one thing to read the Ritz Carlton motto, “we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” but it’s another thing to experience it. As I walked into the lobby, I received warm welcomes from the doormen and the concierge, who offered me the choice between a glass of complementary champagne or water. I really could have used water, but I was on vacation, so naturally, I opted for the champagne. To my grateful surprise, the concierge brought me both water and champagne. I didn’t have to ask for it. The concierge anticipated my need. The “wow” factor was accomplished within three minutes of entering the hotel. Genius. How do we anticipate the client’s needs at SchermCo? Are we doing all that we should be doing for our clients? Are we creating “wow” factor moments?
Ritz Carlton’s gold standards apply to every level of employee:
- “I own and immediately resolve guest problems”
- “I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests”
- “I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.”
These mantras were reflected yet again during my stay. Per usual, I forgot to pack my toothbrush. Upon calling the concierge to see if they could provide an extra toothbrush, they sent a hotel representative to my door in less than five minutes. However, the most significant part of this experience was not the timeliness but the presentation. The hotel provided a toothbrush kit, nicely gift-wrapped in elegant packaging. The toothbrush kit included toothpaste, mouthwash, and a regular-sized toothbrush. This gesture communicated thoughtfulness, care, and integrity. The Ritz Carlton brand looks to create lifetime customers in every interaction. What would it look like if we aimed to develop lasting customer relationships in our daily work at SchermCo?
I ruminated on these questions and came away with three main takeaways on how our approach at SchermCo relates to the Ritz Carlton’s gold standards:
Ownership is a shared value amongst the SchermCo team. We believe in taking responsibility for our internal and client-facing duties like the Ritz Carlton employees are expected to own guest problems. In fact, our new employee onboarding process involves reading the book Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink. The book shares hard-hitting, Navy SEAL combat stories that translate into lessons for business and life. Jocko teaches that there is no room for members of any team not to take responsibility for their actions. The book provides content for new teammates to discuss what taking ownership looks like within the day to day at SchermCo. Owning issues or miscommunications typically helps resolve the problems quickly and communicates a genuine care for the work. Through respecting deadlines, acknowledging faults, and expressing solutions, our team continually strives to uplift a mindset of ownership in our daily interactions.
The SchermCo book club noted The Ritz Carlton approach of continually seeking ways to innovate. So, our team huddled to evaluate how we respond to and anticipate client needs. We considered small tasks going well, such as distributing Enter and Exit Surveys for clients to share their needs, expectations, and ultimately their final partnership evaluation. Also, the team agreed that our focus should include what the client means to share or the unexpressed wish.
For example, the Strategic Implementation team recently helped a client prepare for a fundraising event. The client shared that he had no time to print the organization’s QR code linked to the giving site. Feeling like it was too late, he abandoned the idea and left to speak at the event. Our Associate of Strategic Implementation, Taylor James, hurriedly prepared the QR code and brought it to the fundraiser. While it wasn’t a direct ask by the client, it was an unexpressed wish recognized. Responsiveness is an important aspect of the client relationship and a service standard that our team is continually looking to refine.
It is clear that the Ritz Carlton holds its team to “uncompromising levels” of excellence. What if we all embodied these values in our daily work? As humans, we sometimes fall below standards or misstep. However, if the service standards are high, the error may be equivalent to another’s high bar. At SchermCo, small norms help to create excellence. Wherein client interactions and internal work behaviors consistently outperform the norm. As a client, you should expect each meeting to be prepped with a thorough agenda, each project check-in invite to be sent promptly, and each deliverable tight and on time. However, those are basic expectations, right? As a team, how do we truly show excellence to the client? After my experience staying at the Ritz Carlton hotel, I believe the consistency of performance is an essential contributor to excellence.
This is the goal across the SchermCo team; whether a client works with us tomorrow or five years from now, we hope to provide the same uncompromising level of service. To learn more about the SchermCo team, visit the Square Pizza Podcast, where my coworker, Director of Family Empowerment, Jia Lin-Bothe, and I give our one-year reflections on work culture.
Interested in learning more about our services? Email me – I’d love to chat.
Director of Strategic Implementation