Lessons from the Ritz-Carlton
At SmugMug, we pride ourselves on our customer service. We think it’s one of the key things that sets us apart from our competitors and we spend a lot of time focusing on it. Every SmugMug employee works a customer service shift every week. Think about it – how many web properties can you think of that provide over-the-top customer service?
I was lucky enough to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay over the weekend for my 6th wedding anniversary (and first overnighter away from the twins!). I had heard of the Ritz’s reputation for service, of course, but I’ve stayed at nice hotels before. Just how great could it be?
Boy, was I in for a wakeup call.
A few days prior to our arrival, I received a phone call from the Ritz Guest Relations Supervisor wondering if there was anything special they could do for me since it was our anniversary. I hemmed and hawed for a minute, thinking, and she took the opportunity to suggest a few wonderful things such as having ‘our song‘ playing when we got back to our room after dinner. Together, we came up with a few more great ideas and she made it happen – after dinner, my wife was in tears and I had earned major bonus points.
When we arrived and I pulled up to the guardhouse down the road from the hotel, the gentleman manning it wished us a “Happy Anniversary”. Before we’d even driven up or checked in, everyone already knew! The valets knew, the doorman knew, the front desk knew. Everyone wished us a “Happy Anniversary” and even correctly pronounced my last name (it’s difficult for most people, and we’re very used to a variety of pronunciations – but clearly, they knew at the Ritz).
The valets gushed over my car when I pulled up, asking if it was turbo-charged (they could hear the whine – but it’s a supercharger), complimenting me on my rims, etc. Ok, so I’m car-obsessed and a sucker for people realizing that my car is unique and wanting to talk about it. Now, remember, this is the Ritz – there was a Bentley next to a Rolls-Royce next to a Ferrari 360 next to a Laborghini Murcielago out front. I love my car, but it pales in comparison – but they knew it was my car and that I’d appreciate the compliments.
I could go on-and-on, but I think you’re getting the point. From service at the spa (best. massages. ever.) to dining, everything was on par with what I’ve already described. The next day, Ritz employees were still greeting us in the halls by our name and wishing us “Happy Anniversary”.
The bottom line: We felt special. We felt pampered. We felt like the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton knew us personally and really cared about making sure we were happy. They’ve earned a customer for life.
Things we can learn from the Ritz and their approach to service:
- Attention to detail. Knowing how to pronounce my last name properly doesn’t sound like a big deal – but it is to me, and it’s but one small example. Everything was like that – no detail overlooked.
- Proactive service. Calling me a few days ahead of time, prepared with suggestions, was over the top and greatly appreciated.
- Warmth and caring. Every Lady and Gentleman at the Ritz seemed to genuinely care about us and our well-being.
- Communication. Everyone there seemed to know it was our anniversary, and that put a smile on our faces each and every time we heard “Happy Anniversary”.
- Understanding the customer. When I drove up in my car, they realized that I was into cars and reacted accordingly. Adjusting your game to be “just right” for every given customer is a diffcult but laudable goal.
- Every customer is special. I’m not a regular, I’ve never stayed at a Ritz, and I wasn’t well-dressed or anything – I was wearing my typical cheap, comfy Old Navy from head-to-toe. It didn’t matter – at the Ritz, everyone’s special.
We need to take our game to the next level. We provide excellent customer service, possibly the best on the web, but that’s no reason not to improve – and what better place to learn than from watching the gold standard.