What we can learn from my personal favourite customer experience

In my line of work, I’m often asked to name a company which gets customer experience just right. I’m always drawn to tell this story….

It started just after I got engaged and was booking a holiday. Having a professional interest in customer experience I’ve always wanted to try Ritz-Carlton, world-renowned for its excellent customer service and ‘making memories’ mantra.

After booking the hotel we received a personalised, heart-felt email thanking us for choosing them. So far, so good. But that was just the beginning and what followed was a journey so engaging, I recount the story time and time again (providing them with lots of free marketing).

Highlights include a room upgrade, champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries, a handwritten note on arrival, a seamless service (e.g. rooms being made up whilst at breakfast) and all staff addressing us by our names and remembering how we like our eggs in the morning. What made it so great? In my opinion it was the ease of meeting each customer’s personal needs and making the whole journey effortlessness.

Upon return we received a thank you email from the manager, plus a survey. We completed the survey imagining that to be our last contact, so were pleasantly surprised to receive one final communication outlining the actions they would take based on our feedback.

Our whole journey from start to finish felt seamless, tailored, customer centric and above-and-beyond.

So, what lessons can we learn from Ritz-Carlton’s approach to customer experience and how can we recreate some of that magic?

BEGIN WITH THE CUSTOMER

Truly great customer experience takes planning and commitment from the inside out. Most companies start by first designing their processes and then cladding them with flourishes of customer service.

Ritz-Carlton has turned that standard practice on its head and built its operating model around the one thing that is most important to its success - the customer journey. The experience is prioritised at every touch point and opportunities to make emotional connections have been added wherever possible. Processes have then been designed purely with the customer in mind and this approach is felt by customers throughout their Ritz-Carlton journey.

EMPOWER YOUR PEOPLE

One of the most impressive achievements of Ritz-Carlton is that their employees really do care about the job they’re doing and there is a strong sense of empowerment. They are given a symbolic monetary amount to encourage staff to fix or improve a guest’s experience. During our stay we witnessed this first hand when a friendly waiter used his allowance to buy us spa vouchers. The effect this had was a strengthened connection with the waiter and the company, and a feeling of gratitude and happiness.

Ritz-Carlton understands how vital their 40,000 employees are in their service offering. It is famous for coining the phrase ‘ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen’ which illustrates the level of respect perfectly. The expression is used throughout internal and external communication, with Ritz-Carlton employing an inside-out marketing strategy, showcasing their colleagues in their advertising and further solidifying their relationship.

FEEDBACK ON FEEDBACK

The most pleasant surprise of our Ritz-Carlton experience was the response we received to our feedback. I rarely hear anything after submitting a survey response, let alone get told what actions will be taken as a result.

It’s a smart strategy which not only allows continuous improvement, but also means the relationships with customers continue to nourish, even after the stay is over. By allowing two-way communication it becomes something more than simply transactional.

Feeling as though my opinions were listened to has been instrumental in me becoming a Ritz-Carlton brand advocate and subsequently recommending it to friends, family and even my social media networks.

CREATE GLOBAL CONSISTENCY

This is always one of the biggest challenges facing any international business. But I believe the key to global consistency is finding the right balance between your company brand values and the expertise of your local operations. What Ritz-Carlton does so well is create a network of brilliant people, all working towards the same company goals, but being trusted to add their own flair and way of doing things.

Here at PEN, we take inspiration from companies like Ritz-Carlton and use it to help our clients better understand their customers to create a seamless customer experience, whatever stage of the journey they are at.