“Puttin’ on the Ritz” is a well-known expression for high quality and utilities could learn much from this gold standard when it comes to their customer service.
The Ritz-Carlton knows how to take care of its employees and customers and the upshot is that it has amazing customer service. Why should utilities care? In an independent survey, 99 percent of guests said they were satisfied with their Ritz-Carlton hotel experience and more than 80 percent were extremely satisfied. How satisfied are your utility’s customers.
To help you improve your customer service, I will highlight the following aspects of Ritz-Carlton’s approach to employee and customer relations.
• Ritz-Carlton makes employees feel valued to encourage them to provide quality service. The company’s training managers and senior hotel executives give personal two-day demonstrations of “Gold Standards” to all new employees. Three weeks later, orientation units reconvene for follow-up sessions, after which employees are considered “Ladies or Gentlemen at The Ritz-Carlton.”
• The hotel chain teaches employees how to provide world-class service. First-year managers and employees receive 250 to 310 hours of training.
• To cultivate customer loyalty, Ritz-Carlton has a rule that any employee who receives a guest complaint owns the complaint. After training, first-line employees such as housekeeping staff, busboys, etc., have the authority to spend up to $2,000 to immediately correct a problem. Managers can spend up to $5,000.
• The hotel chain is detail oriented. Steps for all quality-improvement and problem-solving procedures are documented. For example, to meet its goal of total elimination of problems, Ritz-Carlton has determined there are 970 potential instances for a problem to arise during interactions with overnight guests and 1,071 such potential instances during interactions with meeting event planners. Customer service standards have been established for every instance.
Utility executives who aspire to achieve the customer service success of Ritz-Carlton don’t need a big budget. The hotel chain achieved its success over time and any utility can do the same if it commits to the processes involved. To polish their customer service, utilities should do the following.
— Require managers and senior executives to “walk their talk” about service both in informal presentations and in daily interactions.
— Define your service standards.
— Train every employee to provide the service the company desires and to uphold the company’s standards.
— Empower staff members to resolve problems and make it clear how much authority they have.
— Identify specific steps and provide documentation for improving your service and problem-solving procedures.
— Measure, measure, measure. Collect data and analyze it to support documentation and problem-solving procedures. Pay attention to the details.
Ritz-Carlton officials know their efforts create a win-win-win situation. Employees feel good about themselves, guests are happy and the company stays in business. The hotel chain is a shining example of cultivating loyalty by building positive relationships one customer at a time. Loyalty-focused companies outperform their competitors two to one. Loyal customers are more pleasant, they purchase more products, they refer new customers and they are more forgiving when problems occur.
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skills training for utilities. He can be reached at 888-644-5499 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Measure-X Web site at www.measure-x.com.