What I Learned At The Ritz-Carlton
September 3, 2020
Recently I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in St. Louis. A luxury hotel in an upscale part of the city, the hotel blends in quite nicely without standing out in any regard. I was welcomed and shown the front desk where I checked in without much fanfare. From that point on, I began to notice what has made the Ritz-Carlton one of the most successful chains in the world.
From the moment I checked in, every member of the staff who spoke to me greeted me by name. My bags were taken to the room and my car valeted. I was given instructions to call the front desk anytime I needed my car.
As I had a drink at the bar and enjoyed a smooth whiskey on the rocks, I began to unwind from my flight and think about the meetings and presentations I had later in the week. My plans were to enjoy as much downtime as possible so that I could prepare an article I was writing on the Florida Keys. Homework is a necessity in order to provide the best writing necessary to a client. A person needs to have the confidence you know about the area and aren’t merely trying to sell them a hotel room.
The bartender came to check on me, and let me know that my room was ready. She’d comp’d the drink since my room wasn’t ready immediately upon arrival. It’d been vacant awaiting the service crew.
I arrived at my room to be met by a staffer who let me know they’d replaced a hinge on the bathroom door that was cracked. He asked me to let him know if I’d found anything else that needed attention.
Initially, my mood was of agitation, having been kept waiting while someone fixed a hinge. On second thought, I appreciated them letting me know what the delay was and asking me to let them know if I required any repairs at all during my stay. This might make someone feel the place was falling down and in need of repair all the time. Thinking back to many other stays at motels and hotels around the world — this was the only time I could remember being told something had been repaired. Normally I would just notice ten or more things which had needed repair and been left for another time.
A couple of days later I was in an adjoining hallway going over my notes before I was to deliver a presentation. I surmised the housekeeping staff had not made their rounds to this area yet when I noticed a paper laying on the floor. As is my habit, I picked up the paper to throw it away. I detest trash, and always pick it up when possible.
As I took a few steps I glanced at the paper to see if it was anything important that may have been lost. I immediately felt sick and felt the back of my suit. Looking again, I read the words “Wet Paint”. It had apparently fallen from its place against the wall.
Making my way to my room, I knew I had only brought my best suit with me. I hated the thought of giving a formal presentation in my golf shirt and slacks.
Rounding the corner toward the elevators, I ran into a bellhop. Handing him the sign, I suggested he have someone clearly mark the area so no one else would suffer my fate. He made a quick call into his radio, I didn’t even know he was carrying and had me follow him to the gift shop.
I hadn’t really thought about this. They may have a suit that would fit, or at least a suit jacket. We arrived and were met by at least five members of the staff who asked my sizes and ushered me into a changing room to remove my soiled suit. Within five minutes I was presented with a new suit that fit nicely. It wasn’t a custom fit but was close enough that it didn’t appear too big or too small. The suit was of better quality than my own too.
As I checked my watch, I thanked them and gave them my room number. Asking them to bill my room as I was going to be late. I made my entrance right on cue and delivered a decent presentation on customer service and ethics.
My friends and I gathered afterward and attended a ball game. The St. Louis Cardinals had a home game. We had connections and enjoyed seats in the skybox.
The day ended up not being too bad after all. I was welcomed by the bell staff as entered the lobby and made my way to my room. Entering my suite, I found my suit freshly cleaned and paint-free, nicely pressed, and laying on my bed with a note from the manager of their apologies. She said I was to keep the suit, and hoped it wouldn’t require much tailoring for a proper fit. As I put the suit in my closet, I noticed all of my shoes had been shined.
The Epitome of Customer Service
I’ve never been a real fan of the Ritz-Carlton chain before. Oh, sure I like them just fine and never had anything bad to say about them. My preferences usually had me staying at the Hyatt or Marriott chains.
This one stay has changed everything. My whole perception of what it means to have a staff truly engaged in customer service has evolved due to this experience.
When I returned home, a few weeks had gone and I noticed the pen in my journal had run out of ink.
I had substituted a pen from the Ritz-Carlton in the meeting room for my own since it fits into the slot of my journal better. It even wrote better, though it was obviously a less expensive pen. I inquired via email to the Ritz-Carlton customer service address and asked if they sold the pens. I never received an email back from them. Within three days, a package of 20 pens arrived — no note, no bill.
When dealing with people, it is imperative that we learn their names and use them. It’s important that people know we are invested in them personally, and their success — if only for the single encounter them.
We should also go out of our way to help those who need it. When we have the opportunity to do something for others, we should go above and beyond to meet their expectations.
I’m sure the Ritz-Carlton Hotels have this in their training programs for all employees. I’ve yet to stay at any of their hotels where I wasn’t treated as a valued guest.
…and yes. Now I choose to stay at their hotels when I have a choice. They have a loyal customer in me.