So I have been noodling around YouTube, Google and other materials to find out more about service. There are a host of resources out there, both factual, and opinionated. So I went to the source for an example of exemplary service. There is perhaps one name, that has stood the test of time for consistently delivering on their promise of quality guest service. And that is Ritz Carlton. Yet, do their promotional videos get at the heart of what service really means? For instance, here is their latest video upload to YouTube:
Of course any promotional material will be from the point of view of the customer, but here are host of promises from business to consumer. As I have stated in class, there are three drivers influencing our industry, money or financial, information, and promises. Service is a promise. Service is a human element; a coordinated effort between all team members to deliver on a promise.
Okay, but what about the definition:
According to Brymer and Johanson (2014, glossary), Service is:
A type of product that is intangible, goods that are inseparable from the provider, variable in quality, and perishability. The reason why private clubs exist; members receive high-end, personalized service at their club.
The authors go on further to define Service Experience:
Sum total of the experience that the customer has with the service provider on a given occasion.
So, we can draw several inferences from these two concepts. One, that service is an intangible element, varies in delivery, and is perishable. That would mean that is has links to the human element of our industry, that it may or may not be consistent, and that it may or may not last. Yet, perishability, in terms of service, needs a little more thought. How do we draw turnover into this concept? If service is perishable, part of the human element, could that not mean that we have a tenacious grasp on retaining valuable employees, that understand service, and its effect to the bottom line (profitability), and loyalty? That employees, if not seen as a valuable asset to our company, could easily jump ship and migrate to another company that values their efforts. Therefore, how we plan, how we coordinate, how we train, the matrix of our corporate culture, envisioned in our mission and vision statements, should relate back to that core concept of service.
So let us revisit The Ritz’s Credo:
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
That is a solid promise to guests, that must be communicated down through the layers of an organization. Every day this must be reinforced, and understood. It’s not just about the job, it’s an ideal, an attitude, that must percolate consistently through every employee’s mind. This also extends the argument to empowering the employees with clearly defined promises.
Yet, what is that empowerment to the Ritz employee? We must visit their motto.
At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.
Here the culture is proactive, already a thought in their mind, even before a guest decides to stay with them. They understand the moment of truth, that at any contact point, they can and will make a difference. The Ritz further articulates this into the Three Steps of Service:
- A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
- Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
- Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
Again, these steps illustrate the need to understand your guest, before, during and after their stay. We need to understand their decision-making process, their needs, their wants, even if they don’t understand quite what they want themselves. It is about relationship building, CRM (Customer Relationship Management); about asking the right questions in order to understand, to progress from a limited awareness to a greater awareness. To be cognizant of our world around us. If someone family suddenly pops into your establishment without a reservation, and Mom is holding a three-year old, and Dad is trying to coral and maintain order with the other two youngsters, you know to ask a few questions to make their stay more comfortable. Look at the people, look at what is going on, note the time, note the weather, even if you are sold out. Service is about going that extra mile for your guest.
These steps can be further broken down into objectives or values:
- I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
- I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
- I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
- I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
- I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
- I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
- I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
- I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
- I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
- I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
- I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
- I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.
What these are,are goals and objectives, in developing a corporate culture. Something that is deeply rooted in the psyche of every employee. Not only for the guest, but also, in how all employees are treated. And thus a promise is made between the company and their employees:
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.
So, what have we learned. Service is about promises, about experience for both the employee and the guest. And that leads to the final definition offered by Brymer and Johanson (2014, Glossary):
Service product: Entire bundle of tangibles and intangibles in a transaction that has a significant service component.