We’re in the midst of America’s red-carpet season of horse racing; the trifecta otherwise known as the “Triple Crown”. Over the course of five weeks we’ll witness the fastest three-year old’s thoroughbred racing has to offer. The jewels of the Crown – the Kentucky Derby in Lexington, the Preakness in Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes in New York – showcase a combination of sport, fashion, and tradition like no other. Don’t miss the Belmont on June 10th; at a mile-and-a-half the longest of the jewels.
The service industry also has crown jewels. Apple, Starbucks, and Amazon deliver a customer experience just about as satisfying as the products they sell. FedEx is so reliable a delayed or lost package is not even a remote possibility. But let’s kick it up a notch and talk about the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The Ritz-Carlton is such a renowned, decorated jewel of service excellence it deserves its own category. Only the Walt Disney Company could claim such preeminence.
My wife and I were fortunate to experience “the new gold standard” of Ritz-Carlton’s hospitality this past weekend. Celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary, we ventured into the Colorado Rockies for a couple of days of rest and relaxation at the Ritz in Beaver Creek, near Vail. Colorado is in “mud season” now – mid-May through Memorial Day – so mountain-town resorts deep-discount, befitting the budgets of mere mortals like us.
Pulling up to the Ritz, the valet offered us bottled water and whisked away our luggage and car. At the front desk we were assured a “lovely, quiet room far out on the north wing”. In the room itself the porter promptly stowed our bags and explained all the little details. With our modest room-service dinner our attendant produced a complimentary bottle of champagne and stack of those little pillow chocolates. Happy Anniversary!
But here’s where our story gets a little dicey. Sometime after midnight my wife and I woke to the sounds of a very nearby party. Turns out the room next door housed the groomsmen and a whole lot of guests from a wedding at the hotel. Blasting our sleepy ears: music, dancing, dozens of loud, happy voices, and… the unmistakable smell of marijuana. Thank you neighbors; my dreams were colorful enough already.
The next morning over room service breakfast, we voiced a carefully-worded complaint to the attendant who brought our tray. How many guests do you allow in a single hotel room? Is this a non-smoking hotel? Can you smell the still-pungent aroma of pot drifting under the doorway of the adjacent room?
Time for a taste of the Ritz-Carlton gold standard. Our attendant immediately comped our breakfast, assured us we would be moved to another room, and said to expect a call from the hotel manager. The manager told us another room was already being prepared and we would be moved at our earliest convenience. When the bellhop escorted us to the south wing, he was quick to note, “this is one of my favorite rooms in the hotel”.
In fact, the room was breathtaking. The Ritz labels this one an “executive suite”, complete with large sitting room, fireplace, refrigerator, two televisions, two bathrooms, separate shower and bath, and a spacious outdoor balcony facing spectacular Vail Mountain. Safe to say, the remainder of our anniversary weekend was spent in unexpected luxury.
The gold standard of Ritz-Carlton service excellence is no secret. Early in their colorful history, the hotelier recognized no amount of luxury or elegance derives the same return as an attitude of “the customer is always right”. Every interaction begins with the thought, “The answer is ‘yes’! What is the question?” The hundreds of valets, bellhops, and concierges are trained as thoroughly as the management team, as they are the true face of the hotel. Thus are these employees always addressed as “Ladies” and “Gentlemen”. To add an exclamation point, the Ritz created a Leadership Center and Learning Institute, where thousands of managers from other companies train on the Ritz’s incomparable principles.
You can learn more about Ritz-Carlton’s brand of excellence by reading Joseph Michelli’s The New Gold Standard. You can also sign up for a session at their Leadership Center. My advice: stay at a Ritz hotel sometime (hopefully you have a “mud season”). Nothing explains the gold standard better than the Midas touch itself.