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Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Beta Testing the Ritz

This weekend we stayed at the brand new Ritz Carleton in Toronto. Only open for two weeks, the place still has new building smell and swarms of eager staff who jump to your every need.  According to the exceedingly enthusiastic bellman who gave us a tour of our room (“And look!  A fog free mirror in your shower.You can shave while you shower!”), we were the first people to use our suite. That was kind of cool.

I’m not going to do a whole hotel review here. That’s for someone else.  But I do want to mention the thing that struck us:  Staff actually do their jobs. In fact, they do more than their jobs (which I suppose, is their job.)  They step out from behind counters and desks to show you where things are. They take your order for breakfast even though they aren’t actually your server. They look up phone numbers, call taxis, and not only bring down your bags, but bring your car around and load the bags into the back for you—all while you eat breakfast.

Now, none of this is surprising for a high-end establishment, but what I realized as we drove home and talked about it, was that that the reason the service at the Ritz is seemed like such a breath of fresh air was not because I was all starry-eyed about having staff jump to my every whim. (I’m sure we didn’t even register on their radar of demanding guests)  It was because that’s the kind of service we’ve forgotten to expect in the rest of the world.

We’ve somehow ended up in a society where half the people (more than half?) who attend to us in any environment (retail stores, restaurants, doctor offices, train stations) act as though we’re inconveniencing them by asking them to simply do their jobs. We’ve grown so numb to bad service that we’re actually surprised when someone performs their job willingly, pleasantly, and completely.

Providing good service is not about being 5-star. It’s about management setting a tone and then holding staff to it. And much of that comes down to the idea that everything has to be everyone’s job. (This is the antidote to Seth Godin’s #1 reason that things are broken) I have no doubt that if I had asked one of the cleaning staff at the Ritz to have a bottle of wine delivered to my room, I would have been told, “Certainly, What kind?” and my wine would have arrived shortly thereafter.

And receiving good service is not about how much we paid or how much the staff is being paid. We regularly eat at a small local breakfast place that provides basic good food for a surprisingly low price. Service there is as good as anything we’ve ever gotten at an expensive restaurant – in fact, sometimes better.

The excuses for not providing good customer service are many. But if the Ritz Carleton can do it and our little breakfast joint can do it, then why not everyone else?

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