Joe Callaway, author of Indispensable, gave us a great insight when he said “if you only look within your own industry, you are destined to eat the dust of your competitors.” Scores of credit unions have made dramatic, positive changes by learning from one of the finest service providers in America, the Ritz-Carlton.
Having facilitated the World Class Customer Service Executive Institute for the past half dozen years, let me share with you some insights that have helped transform the service cultures of many credit unions.
Learning verses training
Recently, the Ritz-Carlton was named the training company of the year in the United States. What a remarkable achievement. Yet, when they talk about it, they say that they are a learning organization, not a training organization. And what is the difference? Learning is active, training is passive. Learning puts the responsibility on the student/pupil. Training puts the responsibility on the teacher. Everyone within the Ritz-Carlton organization understands it is their responsibility to know what they need to know to excel at their job.
One of the most remarkable statements I have heard from the Ritz people is when they talk about their approach to marketing and advertising. Their philosophy is this “Our empowered employees are our number one advertising strategy.” You’ve never seen a Ritz-Carlton ad on TV because they don’t advertise on TV. And yet they have the majority of the top rated hotels in the country. Every employee at the Ritz is empowered to make things right for the hotel guests. They not only correct problems extremely well, but they go out of their way to make sure you have a memorable experience when you stay there.
Let me tell you my favorite empowerment story from the Ritz. We were meeting in Atlanta and two ladies asked to tell their story before we started the session in the morning. They were so excited about the previous evening. The concierge had put together a great plan for them to see the highlights of Atlanta. At one of the subway stops, the concierge got on their subway (he was on his way home). He caught their eye, engaged them in conversation, and wished them well before getting off. When they returned to their hotel room later that night, there was a nice note and a bottle of wine from the concierge thanking them for the great conversation. They were thrilled, they told the class the story, and I have been telling the story for the past 5 years.
I own the problem
Every employee who works at the Ritz-Carlton is committed to 12 service standards. Each of the commitments begins with the word ‘I …’. Number six is my favorite. It says “I own and immediately resolve guest problems”. In other words, if any employee becomes aware of a guest need or problem, they own that situation until it is fully resolved. Every employee is committed to this standard. It is amazing to see in action. I saw it lived out the first time I stayed at a Ritz. Khalid was the bellman who took me to my room. He talked to me about Wisconsin (my home state), Atlanta, and the group of credit union people who were gathering. When he opened the door to my room, we discovered that the room was a mess. Sheets and a bedspread on the floor, dirty dishes, litter throughout. It was an awkward, embarrassing moment for Khalid. But he never blamed anyone, nor did he roll his eyes. He simply apologized and brought me to a nice lounge. He said he would get the room cleaned and come back and get me in 30 minutes. Sure enough, in a half hour, he came and got me and brought me to my room. It was perfect. And there was a gift on my dresser for my inconvenience. Khalid saw the problem, owned the problem, and dazzled me – the first time guest.
The lessons at the Ritz come fast and furious. There is nothing like examining the very best, see how they do it, and return to your credit union to put those lessons into practice.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from looking outside of the industry?
Rick Olson is the President of Rick Olson Seminars and is the lead presenter for CUNA’s World Class Customer Service Executive Institute.