Follow These Five Steps to Set A Standard for Great Customer Service

Excel at customer service like the Ritz-Carlton by following these five steps.

When it comes to customer service, the Ritz-Carlton has the gold standard. Whether it’s being greeted by name when you arrive or having a valet go 45 minutes out of his way in the middle of the night to make sure you have black socks for your meeting, the Ritz-Carlton seeks to impress at every opportunity. You know they are doing something right when even Steve Jobs steals the Ritz’s customer service practices for the Apple Stores.

According to a case study, “Comparative Analysis of the Western Hospitality and the Japanese Omotenashi,” the Ritz-Carlton has found the secret to great customer service in their Golden Standards philosophy that rivals Japan’s standard of hospitality, omotenashi. Omotenashi means hospitality in Japanese and is based on the three principles of anticipation, flexibility, and understatement.

If you want to excel at customer service like the Japanese omotenashi, follow these five steps.

  1. Have high standards

The Ritz has developed a credo that emulates the high standards of Japan’s omotenashi in the understated manner of their staff’s service and the anticipation of guests’ needs.

In their credo, the Ritz pledges understatement in the way they “provide the finest personal service” in “a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience, and how they pledge to anticipate “even the unexpressed wishes and needs of” their guests.

  1. Provide a warm welcome

The Ritz-Carlton ensures warm hospitality through every interaction from beginning to end by following these three steps:

  1. A warm and sincere greeting.
  2. Using the guest’s name. Anticipating and fulfilling the guest’s needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Giving a warm good-bye and using the guest’s name.
  1. Empower employees through service values

The Ritz-Carlton expands on the credo and their warm welcome through their 12 service values. The first of their service values is about building relationships with customers, but the other service values emphasize the employee being empowered in their service, learning and growing in their position, and taking ownership in the success of the customer service interaction.

These service values give the employee flexibility to adapt to any given situation, providing the best customer service experience possible. The values also empower the employee, so a customer’s needs can be satisfied right away, without having to call in a manager.

  1. Reinforce service themes daily

Customer service training is reinforced daily. Each day at the Ritz, there is a morning lineup in which staff go over one item from a 20 item list of customer service themes.

For example, as explained in the case study, if the theme of the day was complaint processing, then the staff would talk about a real complaint situation and how it was handled.

  1. Inspire employees through “wow” stories

The Ritz inspires employees through shared success stories. According to the case study, at the same morning lineup meeting, staff are encouraged to recount a “wow” story where the customer was suitably impressed by the customer service.

These “wow” stories are celebrated in front of all the staff, which encourages other employees to do their best so that they too can be recognized for their own “wow” experience. Furthermore, these stories are forwarded to the corporate office and the best stories are published on an annual best list. 

These “wow” stories reinforce a virtuous cycle where empowering and encouraging employees inspires staff to give better service for the customers, and the customers’ satisfaction further reinforces the employees’ desire to continue to give better service.

Kyle Crocco is the Content Marketing Coordinator at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau, a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, and the lead singer of Duh Professors. He regularly publishes business book reviews and thought articles on Medium, Business 2 Community, and Born 2 Invest.