Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Ritz-Carlton - empowering employees to give good service

After decades of demanding that employees strictly adhere to a 20-point list of customer service basics, the company's management realised that the specific routines weren't adequately addressing the widely ranging expectations of the luxury chain's customers, who had become younger, more diverse, more tech savvy, and more likely to travel with family.

The company's leaders also saw that expanding the list to address every possible situation that an employee might encounter would be futile. As a result, they shifted to a simpler 12-point set of values that allowed employees to use their judgement and improvise.

Tightly defined process dictums (like "always carry a guest's luggage", "escort guests rather than point our directions to another area of the hotel", and "use words like good morning, certainly, I'd be happy to, an it's my pleasure") sometimes felt stuffy and out of place. Management replaced them with loser value statements (such as "I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life" and "I am empowered to create unique, memorable, and personal experiences for our guests"). The change encouraged employees to sense customers' needs and act accordingly. Customer satisfaction improved.

Source: "When Should a Process Be Art, Not Science?", J.M. Hall & M.E. Johnson, HBR, Mar '09.

From my time at What If (whatifinnovation.com) I also know that they backed up these values statements with actions that let people know they were really meant, like giving employees discretion to spend up to $2k to put right problems without prior authorisation. And they used stories of how other staff around the world put the values into practise by sharing stories at the daily 'line-up'.

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