Independent Thinking Blog

5 Things I Learned from the Ritz-Carlton about Customer Service

Everyone should spend a week (or longer) working for The Ritz-Carlton. It doesn’t really matter what job–front line, back office, executive suite. You’ll learn something about customer service done right.

I was fortunate to spend a month many years ago working in the sales office of a Ritz-Carlton hotel. I didn’t learn hotel/hospitality lessons–I learned business lessons, and I’m still applying them today.

Here are 5 things I learned from The Ritz-Carlton:

1. There’s A Right Way to Answer the Phone, and “YO” isn’t it. (Okay, I added that last part, but you get the idea.) At my hotel, you had a very specific, scripted greeting that I recall as “Welcome to the Ritz Carlton Washington. My name is Daria. How may I help you?”

2. The Hold Button Isn’t a Default Option. Five lines might be ringing, but it was not acceptable to answer and immediately put someone on hold. Instead, you had to go through your greeting, let them talk–and only then (and only if essential), ask for permission to put the person on hold (“I’m so sorry. May I put you on hold?”)

3. Customer Service Is Everyone’s Role. If the phone was ringing, whoever was available answered it–from “the temp” (me) to the “big boss” (not me). This fits in with Guy Kawasaki’s point about enchanting down. It makes an even bigger statement about the importance of customer service.

4. You Can Say No. This is the hotel chain that has purse stools, so you know staff goes above and beyond to make customers happy. I once arranged for an old-school typewriter to be sent up to a guest’s room for an hour. But if the request was impossible for staff to fulfill, you could say no. You just had to do it upfront–and try to offer another option.

5. Following Up, Not Your Ego, Matters. If you were the initial point of contact with a guest, it was your job to make sure that the request was met. When I called the concierge to get that typewriter, for example, I was told by my colleagues in the sales office to call him back in 30 minutes to make sure the typewriter had been delivered. When I suggested that was insulting, they explained that he’d understand–but it would be unacceptable for the guest not to get the equipment they had been promised. It was a good lesson about keeping your eye on the right priority (the customer).

My friend Michael Rubin said earlier today:

I’d gladly use a week of [paid time off] if Ritz-Carlton had an “internship for execs” where you could learn their customer service “Way.”


The Ritz-Carlton really should start one, because companies have a lot to learn.

Photo by bizmac (Flickr).

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