How The Ritz Ruined My Life

How The Ritz Ruined My Life


If you're serving anyone in your day, business, or life then you'll want to keep reading because in this post you'll hear about the service mavericks of North America.

Growing up in a third world country, staying in 2-star hotels and bare minimum, camping grounds turned me into a nonchalant traveler. I've never really cared where I lay my head, as long as there's something worth waking up to in the morning. The night will come and go. I've slept on top of cars in the middle of the African bush. I've stayed at hostels in Europe and Asia, and I've stayed in a rundown resort in mountainous Thailand where two 70's songs played on repeat throughout my stay and 7 waiters and waitresses met me at every mealtime with static, robotic smiles.

I've also stayed in a few 5-star establishments, and with friends who live like kings, but when you stay in a hotel that has been awarded "Best Hotel in America" 9 of the last 15 years, you have a paradigm shift when it comes to pampering. This hotel is none other than the Ritz-Carlton Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Chicago.

At the 95% Market Share/Kingdom Conference in Chicago (which is hands down the best business conference), we get a discounted rate at the Ritz, not to mention a chance to walk on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, visit behind the scenes of the Field Museum, and experience Chicago's magic, whilst being challenged with the most effective marketing illustrations and business service excellence.

The Ritz's building is old, compared to other luxury hotels. It was built in the 1970s. Many newer, trendier and expensive hotels have been built around the Ritz, including the Trump Tower, Park Hyatt, and Hotel Arista.

Why did the Ritz ruin my life?

To be honest, I couldn't figure it out at first. I didn't even know why I was continuously overwhelmed with powerful endorphins for great lengths of time during my stay. We had a chance to talk to the hotel Manager (Antony) and he admitted to not having the sexiest beaches close-by, or the most outstanding glowing palm trees or dancing monkeys that serve you drinks. He said the reason that the Ritz-Carlton wins Best Hotel in North America continuously is because "We never say 'No,' and our whole business model is designed in creating the Best Hotel Experience each and every time."

He went on, "The Ritz has a policy where none of our employees are allowed to say 'No.' If one of our guests asks for something drastically impossible, then we teach our whole team how to offer and deliver options without saying 'No.'"

Another point Antony mentioned is that the Ritz-Carlton hires people for attitude first. All of the other credentials trail behind this important pinnacle of new employees.

"By the time people reach the age of 20, they either care or they don't. We hire people who care from the core of their being."

It's no coincidence that I felt like the person at the front desk was a close friend that I never knew I had. It was as though I could rant about brewing coffee, Zimbabwean politics, or why I think it would be cool to bring dinosaurs back to life, and she would actually engage and care.

To take it even further in the customer service direction, the Ritz has a Show Me You Know Me software system that tracks every customer that comes through their doors. If you set your room temperature at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, the next time you arrive, your room will be set at that exact temperature.

If you like extra pillows, the extra pillows will be awaiting you. The Ritz maintains a 267 point checklist to ensure quality in the rooms. The lesson here is what you can inspect, you can expect. Find ways to build inspection systems into your customer service processes. All of their employees are required to spend a night in a Ritz-Carlton bed. They then present feedback as a team on how they could make it more luxurious and comfortable.

This led the staff to create a 6 inch foot-fold in the bed sheets. Upon entering the bed, your feet aren't restricted at the end of the bed, but instead they can stretch out as far as they need—a taller person's dream bed.

The Ritz know their customers better than the customers know themselves.

Immediately after staying at the Ritz, I visited small town, middle America. I was put up in a Quality Inn (it was far from quality). As soon as we entered the hotel, I knew the Ritz had ruined me. The hotel manager was passing time, hoping to end her shift without having to do any real work. The staff was slow to help and quick to tell me "No, sorry we can't do that."

Upon entering my room, there was a beetle crawling around in my bed. I took a few photos of the creepy crawler and showed the manager. She replied, "Oh yeah, those guys. There's nothing I can do about that. You just have to shew them away."

I replied, "Ok then, can I have a different room?"

No options. I had to present my own options. The Ritz had ruined me. Staying at a hotel will never be the same.

Once you've stayed at the Ritz, you never want to stay anywhere else. I will never enjoy another 2-star hotel again.

I can't wait for next year's conference.

(photo via trey ratcliff)