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How Ritz-Carlton meets the “unexpressed” needs of guests

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The Impeccable service helps separate Ritz-Carlton. Ritz-Carlton does a lot of things right to earn the high prices they are able to charge–the best locations, beautiful rooms, nice beds and great meals. But in reality, every luxury hotel has to deliver against these or they’ll be quickly out of business. Recognizing that any great brand has to be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz-Carlton focuses their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other Hotels. What Ritz-Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one.ritz-carlton

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Ritz-Carlton Training session, and as a Brand Leader, the thing that struck me was the idea of meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests.

As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz-Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”. Employees carry around notepads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.

Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests. Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz-Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out. And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. Is that not what marketers should be doing? So what is getting in your way?

Ritz-Carlton bakes service values right into their culture

The Ritz-Carlton phrase they use with their staff is “Keep your radar on and antenna up” so that everyone can look for the unexpressed needs of their guests. These could be small wins that delight consumers in a big way, showing the hotel is thinking of ways to treat them as unique and special. But like any hotel, things do go wrong. When a problem does arise they quickly brainstorm and use everyone’s input. The staff is encouraged to surprise and delight guests so they can turn a problem into a potential wow moment.

Wow stories

A great story that makes its way around the Ritz-Carlton world. A guest who had just left the hotel called to say that their son had left his stuffed giraffe in the room. The boy could not stop crying. The only thing these distraught parents could think of to tell their son is that the giraffe was staying on the vacation a little longer. So the staff found the giraffe and overnighted it to the boy. Most luxury hotels would have done that. But that was not enough for Ritz-Carlton.

Knowing what the Mom had told their son about staying on a bit longer, the staff also included a photo album of the giraffe enjoying his extra stay. They took photos sitting by the pool, getting a massage in the spa with cucumbers on his eyes, and laying out on the beach. Imagine how the parents felt. And the signal it sends to them about the Ritz-Carlton staff. Imagine how many friends they may share that story with.

To inspire each other, everyone at Ritz-Carlton goes through a daily line up where they share wow stories, both local stories, and stories from other hotels around the world. This line up keeps everyone in line, but it also keeps people fully engaged.

Harvard did a study on Employee Engagement, stating that the average company had 29% of their employees who were fully engaged and they labeled this group as the ‘Super Stars’. Using the same criteria, Ritz Carlton has 92% of their staff considered fully engaged. No wonder they are able to win so many service awards and no wonder they can create such an experience for their consumers. They have fully created a culture that now defines the brand.

So What Can Brand Leaders Learn from Ritz-Carlton?

  1. How can Brand Leaders meet the unexpressed needs of guests? As Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Are you too worried about the short-term results that you are not even seeing or hearing the unexpressed needs of consumers? Are you so analytical that you need to see the data first and never reach for your instincts?
  2. How do you get your antenna up, so that you are always watching, listening and thinking? How many times a week do you talk with consumers, walk into a store or monitor the brand’s social media feed? Do you ever sit with customer service or read through consumer complaints? Can you set aside time to do a quick brainstorm on consumer observations once a week?
  3. How can Brand Leaders push themselves to wow the consumer? The Ritz-Carlton staff is constantly trying to wow their guests, with surprise and delight that goes beyond the brand promise. Are you pushing yourself to surprise or wow your consumer? Do you have a high standard for the work that exceeds that of your consumer?

How to communicate to the corporate culture behind your brand

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “What is the Big Idea behind your brand?” I rarely get a great answer. When I ask a Leadership Team, I normally get a variety answers. When I ask the most far-reaching sales reps, the scientists in the lab or their retailer partners, the answers get worse. How Ritz-Carlton meets unexpressed needsThat is not healthy. Everyone who touches that brand should be able to explain what it stands for in 7 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 minutes or at every consumer touch-point. They should always be delivering the same message.

There are too many Brands where what gets said to the consumer is different from what gets said inside the corporate walls. The Big Idea must organize the culture to ensure everyone who is tasked to meet the needs of both consumers and customers, whether they are in HR, product development, finance, operations and experience delivery teams, must all know their role in delivering the Big Idea.

Too many brands believe brand messaging is something that Advertising does. The more focus we put on delivering an amazing consumer experience, the more we need to make sure the external and internal brand story are aligned. It should be a Big Idea that drives that story. Every communication to employees, whether in a town-hall speech, simple memo or celebration should touch upon the brand values that flow from the Big Idea, highlighting examples when employees have delivered on a certain brand value.

The Big Idea should drive everything and everyone

Brand Management was originally built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the Brand Manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the Brand. However, it should actually be the brand’s Big Idea that sits at the center, with everyone connected to the brand expected to understand and deliver the idea.How Ritz-Carlton meets unexpressed needs

Aligning the brand with the culture is essential to the long-term success of the brand. The best brands look to the overall culture as an asset that helps create a powerful consumer experience. The expected behaviors of the operations team behind the consumer experience should flow out of the brand values, that flow from the Big Idea. These values act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver the brand’s promise.

Can you do something this week that meets the unexpressed needs of your customer?

 

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

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And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.


We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “How Ritz-Carlton meets the “unexpressed” needs of guests

  1. Reading this story, I think that a lot of this “engagement” has to do with Empowering employees. I believe I read an article on zappos.com and they focused on employee empowerment, as well, by not pushing a binder on standard protocol, rather allowing case-by-case decisions from their employees when responding to customer feedback and dissatisfaction.

    As we are running from meeting to meeting filling out those spreadsheets, instead of being that cookie-cutter corporate drone that most companies expect, reward and promote – empowerment and the freedom to act it out is a gorgeous thing and theoretically will extend employee shelf-life. I have a good friend who works for Ritz-Carlton Miami Beach, I’m going to send this link to him. Wonder what he has to say about my theory on empowerment?

    1. Pam, I agree. One way of empowering people is that every employee can spend up to $2,000 on an issue, without seeking approval. It’s certainly not abused, but it does give people the chance to really make an impact with guests. The other cultural aspect is the brainstorming. There are these quick gatherings.

      And btw, I worked at a fortune 500 company, and no one ever rewarded drones. Those that stood out and did exactly the challenges of this article are those that excelled. Push yourself within the environment you are in. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish.

  2. Using Ritz Carlton as an example is a good choice Graham re:exceeding customer service. They are a hospitality leader, but I wish more companies would benchmark their MO and think like a hospitality company. I always like to suggest to people to benchmark Nordstroms, but unfortunately few people realize that going the extra distance pays off in the long run – builds loyalty, repeat business, your best customer is your current customer.

    1. Thanks Jim. When cpg brand leaders only watch consumers from behind one way glass once a year, they never really know them. Time to get out and experience the real world. Get in the stores. Talk with consumers. Host a dinner. Get out of the office.

  3. Great stuff! One observation I have is that in most organisations, the marketing guys are busy making endless presentations to the bosses to promote themselves; somewhere along the way the customer is forgotten! Ritz-Carton is an truly an unbelievable brand success story of how the it has amalgamated its people into a major force that recognises the customer as the only real person who should be impressed with a sincere attitude .

    1. “The marketing guys are busy making endless presentations to the bosses to promote themselves”… I agree! And this is what I meant by the cookie-cutter corporate drone statement in my comment. At least in my experiences, the free-thinker type isn’t the one who makes it up the ranks, he/she gets laid off during re-orgs by threatened higher ups. But, I hope to have more positive experiences and be more optimistic going forward! The consumer does get forgotten in the quest for young Mktg professionals to become Br Mgrs before reaching the age of 30! (one of my previous co-workers goals).

  4. Great post Graham. Branding is the entire experience your customer has with your business – at every touch point – at the store level, interaction with employees, the ad in your local newspaper, visits to your website, blog or Facebook page – of which Ritz Carlton excels.

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