The Ritz Carlton

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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Comments ( 8 )

  • Hi Daria,

    Some great learnings from your visit.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Ashvini. I knew at the time that I had learned a lot, but I had no idea then how much I would end up applying in my own work life.

  • Suzan@Re Mentor

    Customer service is important for the business to succeed. I remember when I had trouble with my Internet connection; I called the ISP support hotline and talked with a representative. The representative was nice but she put me on hold for at least 7 minutes just for her to get back and inform me that there was an outage. So I asked how long the outage would be. She told me it was an on-going whole day outage and there is no specific time frame for it to be restored. Then why did she have to put me on hold when she already knew there was a whole day outage. I switched providers since then.

    • Suzan–I’m guessing this wasn’t the first problem you had with your ISP? Some companies seem to forget that consumers have options–and are willing to exercise them. Your story should be a cautionary tale for those companies smart enough to listen.

  • Thanks for sharing these lessons from your experiences, Daria. I completely agree that every executive should spend a week working for Ritz-Carlton. I even suggested to Ritz-Carlton’s Twitter profile that they should consider a week-long intensive in the vein of SpaceCamp or Disney Institute.

    For those interested in this idea, I did find out that Ritz-Carlton does run workshops for companies as part of an organization called the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. What’s strange (and slightly disappointing) is that I didn’t find this out from the company’s Twitter responder or an exec writing a note. I had to Google around and find it by accident via an Amazon review of the book “The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.”

    This is a minor quibble, of course. The company does an outstanding job. Thanks again for sharing, Daria.

    At your service,

    • Hi Michael–Well, Ritz-Carlton’s claim to fame is good customer service, not good self-promotion.

      It is interesting to learn that the hotel chain does in fact run workshops. Now they just have to promote them so more companies might consider elevating their customer service operations. Of course, in this competitive era, it’s amazing more aren’t focused on this area of operations anyway.

  • LMWarneka

    I agree with Customer Service deficit and what others can learn from the industry leaders. I worked at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH for 2 summers during college,(front gate and customer service office) and I can tell you we were fully trained with techniques I still use today…they modeled their CSR after Disney, we were told.

    And would you think in this economy service would be monitored? My recent pet peeve was when I was checking out of an upscale hotel chain, settling my bill when the clerk was interupted by phone calls three times. All this time she was handling my credit card and not paying attention to what she was doing. What I wantes to say was, “look, honey, when you are doing ANY type of transaction with a customer standing right in front of you, FINISH it first, and hand the customer back his/her card. Here I was, waiting for her to finish her 3rd phone call, (giving driving directions to a potential guest on the line who must have been hard of hearing) and I had to get on the road. ( I usually do remote checkout). Come on! Do you want me to return or not?

    • It seems you too were fortunate to spend some time with a company that “gets” customer service. It’s really valuable training, isn’t it?

      Your hotel story reminds me of a family friend a few years ago who was staying at a luxury hotel in Venice. She’d paid her bill, left, and was about to get onto a water taxi when a clerk came running after her to tell her she owed the hotel the equivalent of about $10 for a fax. The nickel-and-dime routine cost them dearly as she never stayed there again.