Ritz Carlton's Legendary Service

The Right People and Processes makes Ritz Carlton the epitome of guest luxury and experience (source)

At the kind invitation of the Singapore Tourism Board, I had the privilege of learning all about Ritz Carlton's famed service strategies from Diana Oreck, its Vice President of Global Learning & Leadership Centre. A two-time winner of the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award, Ritz Carlton manages 77 hotels in 24 countries, employs some 35,000 staff, and generates some US$3.2 billion in annual sales.

In the words of Oreck, Ritz Carlton's business practices are not rocket science. What's difficult though is staying the course and ensuring that its service is consistent. Embracing the notion of customers for life, the hotel chain considers its 'Ladies and Gentlemen' to be the most important resource in its commitment to guests. Its strong emphasis on staff development has led to a low employee turnover rate - from a mid 50% (1991) to a low 20% (2009).

With its legendary Gold Standards of service, Ritz Carlton provides all employees with a credo card emblazoned with its world famous motto: "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen". In Oreck's words, "You cannot control how a customer behaves, but you can teach your employees how a lady and gentlemen behaves". This emphasis on its employees can also be seen in the hotel chain's Employee Promise which goes like this:

"At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests. By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company. The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened."

With a near obsession to understand both the expressed and unexpressed needs of guests, Ritz Carlton has Three Steps of Service:

1) A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest's names.

2) Anticipation and fulfillment of each guests' needs.

3) Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest's name.

These basic behaviours are critical as a person only has 7 seconds to make a good impression in person, and only 2 seconds on the phone to do so.

Ritz Carlton also has a set of 12 Service Values (which are pretty self explanatory). These are grouped according to three categories:


1) I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.

2) I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

3) I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.

Emotional Engagement

4) I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.

5) I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.

6) I own and immediately resolve guest problems.

7) I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.

8) I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.

9) I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.

Functional Values

10) I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.

11) I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company's confidential information and assets.

12) I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

According to Oreck, the golden nugget in personal service is to ensure that one doesn't overshadow the customer (its theatrical and performative in a way). She also shared about how each staff is empowered with a budget of $2,000 to make it right for guests - provided of course they are bona fide (they have ways to tell scammers from genuine ones).

Other than its array of measuring tools like mystery shopping and customer surveys, Ritz Carlton's famous Daily Line-up, which is like a team huddle every morning for 15 minutes amongst employees in each department. This process provides a "teachable moment" for supervisors to train their team members.

Finally, it became evident that Ritz Carlton's success lies in implementation. My two most important takeaways from the session were that the "flawless execution of the basics" is key to any service endeavour, coupled with the need to ensure that the strong belief that culture is not just part of the game, but the game itself.

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