1. Is the customer really always right? A hotel company invests in its employees first

    July 28, 2017 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    What if you turned the service philosophy “the customer is always right” on its head and considered your employees first? What would happen to your customer service?Employees first (or ladies and gentlemen first) is a consideration of two-time Baldrige Award recipient Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, where inspired, engaged employees are considered one of the most critical investments, said Valori Borland, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation, at the Ritz-Carlton, speaking at a recent Baldrige Quest for Excellence conference.

    “We know without a shadow of a doubt [that] you cannot have excellent customer engagement without having passionate advocates who work with you,” said Borland. “We support. We invest. We grow. We develop. We want to inspire [employees] each and every day.”

    She added that the two most important things you can say to an employee are “Thank you” and “That means a lot.”

    And in the hospitality industry, where the average rate of employee turnover is 80%, retaining employees, especially in ultra-competitive markets such as Miami and New York City, is a challenge. But Borland said the Ritz-Carlton averages an employee turnover rate of just 20%; “a lot of that comes back to culture.”

    Growth of the Culture

    In the early 1980s, Borland said, the Ritz-Carlton started as three U.S. hotels and now has 140 properties in more than 30 countries. The growth is both in number and type: the Ritz-Carlton now offers properties that include destination clubs and year-round residences. The hotel company has had to evolve its culture and processes through different elements of the hospitality industry, different regions of the United States, and even different countries, she said.

    What the hotel company attributes to its success to be able to grow and consistently deliver service excellence are four pillars: (1) the Gold Standards (made up of components: the Credo, motto, three steps of service, employee promise, 6th diamond, and 12 service values), (2) alignment across properties, (3) its human resources key processes, and (4) the delivery of unique experiences (e.g., global flavor and celebrity chefs), said Borland.

    “As we have grown and as customers adapt and evolve, and their needs have changed, we had to stay relevant,” she said. “We have a commitment to quality. This actually came out of us going through the first Malcolm Baldrige assessment. We had to quickly be able to figure out how do we align and create consistent messaging.”

    Borland said the Ritz-Carlton’s original vision, written by former president Horst Schultz, was to create a world-class, luxury hotel company on the premise that we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentleman. That motto has not changed over the years.

    She said, in the late 1990s, the employee survey revealed that the ladies and gentlemen wanted an internal statement of their beliefs, so employees and leaders, across global properties, held roundtables to seek feedback, and the employee promise was developed. As an employee, Borland said, “I was so blown away that they wanted me, along with my colleagues, to be a part of the writing and co-creating and collaborating [on the employee promise]. . . . When you involve your employees in the planning of the work that affects them directly, wow.”

    Borland said the 12 service values all start with the word “I” followed by an action word; for example, “I am proud to be Ritz-Carlton” and “I am creating.” She said putting the “I” before the values indicates ownership and pride. She added that the service values support the mystique of the brand, as well as the emotional engagement of the Ritz-Carlton’s ladies and gentlemen.

    Recruiting, Hiring, Training

    As a luxury brand, the Ritz-Carlton looks to serve the top 1% of the travelling market, a pretty specific niche, said Borland. So, the hotel company needs to recruit the same caliber of employees to be able to deliver to this market. She said the Gold Standards that encompass the Ritz-Carlton’s values and philosophy are the foundation of the culture, but the employees make the magic happen.

    “You can’t just add on when renovating a building; you have to go back to the foundation, make sure it’s solid, reinforce it before building out,” she said. “To consistently deliver service excellence around the world is all about human resources—our systems behind the smiles. . . . How do we inspire and engage on a regular basis daily, at all times?”

    Prospective employees go through four to five interviews, with team members often involved in decisions, before they are selected to join the Ritz-Carlton, said Borland. The hotel company is not solely looking at skills and knowledge. “We are looking for individuals who possess the behavior and have the DNA of who we are already as a company,” she said. “Can [the employee] consistently bring [the Credo] to life and energize it for every guest, every day? I cannot teach you to smile and to care and to be genuine and authentic.”

    Before they can start their jobs, employees must complete two-and-a-half days of orientation training, which includes content from senior leaders, human resources, sales, marketing, finance, etc., about the Ritz-Carlton culture, said Borland. On their first day, the ladies and gentlemen receive their very own Credo cards. The Gold standards, of which the Credo are part, “are known, owned, and energized with every guest during every interaction at all times,” she said.

    After orientation, each employee receives a learning coach to guide them, and on his/her 30th day, each receives an operational certification. On the 31st day, another day of orientation, called day 21, allows coaches to check in with employees. Day 365 is celebrated, but it is also used as an “emotional rehire”; the employee is asked, “Are you still committed to being a part of this organization?”

    Ladies and gentlemen at the Ritz-Carlton are empowered to handle service recovery for immediate employee resolution. Borland said employees have the tools and the training to make decisions. She suggests, “Allow them to run your business as if it’s their own. You would be surprised as what that does accomplish. Some say if you give too much power to employees, they might give away or comp too much, but If you teach them, set the examples, and provide the guidelines, you may be surprised that they probably make better decisions” than others who are not on the front-line.

    To ensure consistent messaging, across the globe in every Ritz-Carlton property, at the beginning of each shift, every day, 40,000 employees go through the daily lineup, which reinforces messaging about what’s new, a featured topic, a value, a component of the brand, etc. On Mondays and Fridays, ladies and gentlemen share “wow stories”: examples where they have gone above and beyond to deliver exceptional service to guests.

    “We are always asking how can we be better. What are we doing that really creates the brand loyalty?”

    And for the Ritz-Carlton, that brand loyalty starts with the ladies and gentlemen of its workforce.

  2. How to handle customer feedback on social media

    September 30, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on The Meeting Room by Ashlee Keown

    If someone posts a complaint on your business’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, how best to respond? Would you a) delete or ignore it b) discuss a possible resolution via comments on their post or c) thank them and make contact privately?

    Here’s how to turn feedback – good or bad – into an opportunity, by Ashlee Keown, Warehouse Stationery’s Digital and Direct Communications Manager and contributor to the company’s business advice site The Meeting Room.

    Complaints, questions or compliments posted on your business’s social media pages offer a chance to make a positive impact on what current and prospective customers think of your business. Quickly resolving a complaint, for example, can build credibility and goodwill amongst your followers.

    1. Plan ahead
    Assign one person to manage social media feedback. Ideally, they will have customer service experience.
    Prepare a plan. This could be a simple decision tree that covers:

    • types of comment
    • how to respond to each type, eg “Thanks so much for your compliment”
    • how quickly to respond to each type, eg within 30 minutes for a complaint
    • when to involve someone more senior or with detailed product knowledge, eg a question that can’t be answered readily
    • how to proceed in certain situations, eg notify X of a complaint about Y and find a solution together.

    To help develop this plan, think about how your business handles customer complaints on email, by phone or in person. Remember, social media is a public forum and conversations remain visible, so extra-special care is required when responding.

    2. Keep across it
    To be able to respond quickly, monitor your social media pages constantly. This doesn’t mean someone watching them 24/7. Your social media person should check work accounts as often as possible, and set up alerts to be notified immediately when someone posts a comment.

    Social media platforms offer this alert function, but only for activity on that platform. Tools such as Hootsuite enable monitoring across different platforms.

    3. Review carefully
    Each comment should be read thoroughly. Some may be inappropriate and should be deleted, eg abusive or racist, or a product promotion. Set out the types of comments that will get deleted in the ‘profile’ or ‘about’ sections of your page.

    Tip: Don’t delete negative comments out of hand. A business page with absolutely no complaints can raise suspicions. A page where customer complaints have clearly been resolved can build trust.

    4. Respond quickly
    Generally, the faster a business responds to comments the better. So if someone puts up a compliment, sincerely thank them for it as soon as you can.

    Similarly, if they make a genuine complaint, respond quickly with thanks, an apology and a promise to make things right. Be open, polite and professional, not cold or defensive. Their complaint is a sign they value your product or service.

    It’s important then to move the conversation onto a private channel – eg Facebook Messenger, email or phone – so you can get to grips with the problem without discussing every detail in public. Then do all you can to solve the problem.

    Once the issue is resolved, go back to the original comment and ask the person publicly if they are satisfied. This shows your customer and others that you made good on your promise, and that you value them.

    5. Learn and improve
    Feedback on social media offers valuable information about your business. It’s also a chance to test and enhance the way you handle complaints and queries.

    Tip: Whether positive or negative, use feedback to improve your customer service and your business as a whole.

  3. A customer guarantee absolutely dependent on workforce engagement

    March 17, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    “To guarantee that every guest is delighted because of me” is the mission of Baldrige Award recipient K&N Management. Along those same lines, its vision is “To Become World Famous By Delighting One Guest at a Time.”

    Those are pretty lofty goals whose achievement is ultimately dependent on each and every workforce member, because the vision and mission clearly spell out what each workforce member is to do—delight guests. And the owner and operator of Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries & Shakes, as well as the licensed area developer of the four Austin area locations of Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q, has invested in its workforce to ensure that each member can do just that. Part of this investment is really caring for, listening to, and engaging the workforce in support of both the customers (guests) and the community.

    Allyson L. Young, HR and Brand Director, K&N Management, who will be speaking at the upcoming Quest for Excellence Conference, says, “We can’t achieve our mission or vision without the best people. If you don’t spend the resources to select, train, engage, and retain the best people, you or your managers will spend the majority of their time and energy dealing with workforce issues. We strive to treat our workforce as our internal customers, build relationships, and create an experience for them that will leave them delighted.”

    Recognized as one of the Top Places to Work in Austin, K&N Management builds and maintains a focus on “guest delight,” relying on innovation and technology to create product offerings that meet or exceed guest requirements. For example, guests can access store information and events via web sites and social media, as well as through large monitors that display important information about the brand and community outreach efforts at each restaurant location. Feedback is collected with a tablet that administers short surveys right at the table and uploads the information to a third-party host for aggregation. Takeout guests are directed to a Web-based survey.

    To attain this guest delight, leaders know that the workforce must be engaged. One successful example of K&N’s approach to workforce engagement, says Young, is K&N’s Team Member Care Team. “We have two full-time associates who spend their time helping our people solve personal problems before they become work problems,” she says, adding a Theodore Roosevelt quote that pretty much sums up K&N’s workforce philosophy: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

    K&N Management strives to retain its workforce by offering a comprehensive set of above-market benefits to team members who average at least 30 hours per week. For all categories of workers, turnover rates are lower than industry averages. For example, at the time it received the Baldrige Award, K&N Management posted a turnover rate for production workers that was less than 50 percent, in contrast to the industry average of 85 percent. K&N Management’s absentee rate was slightly more than 1 percent, compared to 5 percent for the best competitor and 3.5 percent for benchmarked organizations. Over 95 percent of K&N Management team members reported they were proud to work for the company.

    During the Quest conference, Young will be presenting some of the organization’s top tips for using the Baldrige Excellence Framework to support workforce engagement across its sites. For example, she says, use the framework to identify gaps, then put together cross-functional strategy teams to benchmark best practices in or outside of your industry, create an action plan, and close those gaps.

    At her session, participants will also learn how K&N Management uses strategic planning to continuously improve workforce engagement. Every year, it is one of our strategies, she says, and we have implemented several key workforce engagement processes since receiving the Baldrige Award in 2010.

    Young added that service industries, especially in the hospitality industry, among other types of organizations, can benefit from Baldrige:
    The Baldrige Framework promotes innovation, which promotes learning and continuous improvement in every part of the organization.

    • Many small businesses, especially restaurants, are family-owned and operated and are simply reactive to the environment. When applying the Baldrige Framework, leaders become more disciplined in terms of long-term thinking, which results in more proactive problem solving and continuous improvement.
    • Many business owners are concerned about the future and sustainability. The Baldrige Framework provides the guidelines for operational excellence, which results in long-term profitability and sustainability.
    • What if your organization’s mission and vision were absolutely dependent on each and every workforce member? Do you have the workforce engagement to take that chance on behalf of your customers?


  4. Hot tips to increase customer satisfaction

    March 12, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Biztorming by Luciana Paulise

    Customer is king, but do customers actually feel like they are kings?

    That’s’ a very good question. Poor customer service cost companies billions of dollars every year. And sometimes owners don’t even know about it. Customer satisfaction is hard to measure, but it I not impossible. Repeat sales, customer loyalty, recommendation to friends and customer claims are key performance indicators. While you can try to measure them, you need to focus on how to improve them.

    To increase customer satisfaction, you need to work on the 5 key aspects they value most: the product itself, the user, due care, customer service and finally the personnel.

    1. The product itself: The consumer is the most important part of the production line. Customers are the ones that put our company into business, they buy our products, so products need to be suited to them, that’s why Deming, the famous statistician would say that the consumer was the most important part of the production line. He would also say that it is easy to go broke making the wrong product or offering the wrong service. Companies need to increase value through products and services that delight customers, because profit and growth don’t come from the satisfied customer: Satisfied customers switch, for no good reason, just to try something else. They come from the loyal customer. He requires no advertising or persuasion, and he brings a friend along with him.
    2. User: Customer surveys and mystery shoppers are great tools to get to know the voice of your customer. Demands vary from year to year and from market to market, so it is necessary to study customer requirements deeply through Statistical methods such as run charts or scatter diagrams to determine the type pf product that will sell as it links studies of the consumer preferences with the design of products, improving competitive position. Top management then must bring design and customer research together. After starting a project and gathering VOC (voice of the customer) data, it is time to define the critical-to-quality outputs. To prioritize their actions during this process, practitioners may use a quality function deployment (QFD), also known as the house of quality. There are also new tools and methodologies to get the VOC faster and cheaper.
      Social networks: using Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blogs and other networking tools to promote your business, you can not only engage your audience and let them know what you are up to, but you can also get the their insights, depending on the number visits, likes, favorites and comments.
      All ears Personnel: employees are one of the best source of information in regards to customer desires. They should be trained not only to assist the customer but also to listen to them and communicate their needs to upper management.
      Pilot tests: many Entrepreneurs are already into it to develop new products. The most successful startups are applying the Lean startup methodology , which focus on WORKING SMARTER NOT HARDER, that is experimenting with your product as you soon as you have a first version and letting your early adopters test it for you, telling you what they like and what they don’t. A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to offer the customer in order to begin the process of learning.
    3. Due Care: How the user uses the product is important. If the user doesn’t understand it, or doesn’t know how to take care of it, it can reduce his loyalty. Market research can also be used to understand how the product is used, installed and how it is taken care of. Instructions for use of the product and warnings on miss use are part of the records that establish the amount of care taken on the part of the manufacturer.
    4. Customer service: Deming would also say that “No one can measure loss of business that may arise from a defective product that goes to a customer”, that’s why quality of the products are so important. Quality of the products needs to be taken care of to avoid customer complaints and frustration. In the case the defective product goes to a customer, the company needs to take serious action. There must be a customer service department to help customers to use the product, to assist them if it is broken or to receive complaints about defects.
    5. Trained personnel: Front line employees in charge of customer service should be trained to be able to help the customer and provide information to improve the products, as they need to make customers come back, not their products. Front line employees are usually the less trained, the new ones in the Company, but they are also the first contact of the customer. They should be better trained than anyone on describing products and providing excellent service. They key from great companies is that they don’t only focus on the front line employees but also make sure everyone in the Company appreciates the customer, from the accounting department to the cleaning services. Answers like “ I am not in charge”, or “That’s not my business” should be banned. The customer should be the King no matter where you work.


    Happy customers who get their issues solved tell 5 people about their experience, but a dissatisfied customer will tell 11 people about their experience

    Any contact with the customer should be an opportunity to drive satisfaction. Several researches show that happy customers who get their issues solved tell 5 people about their experience, but a dissatisfied customer will tell 11 people about their experience. So always remember, the key to business success is keeping your customer satisfaction rates higher than your competition!

  5. When Employee Engagement Delivers Great Customer Service

    October 14, 2015 by ahmed

    Originally posted on Beyond Theory by Paul Beesley

    It’s central London. It’s 9.05 am on a Tuesday, October morning. It’s busy. I have arrived at Victoria station via the Tube. My meeting starts at 10.00 am.

    Amazingly for me I have time to kill and I need a coffee. I want to tune in to my emails and be available to take the call that I’m expecting.

    I walk past at least eight cafés and coffee points. My destination is Pret A Manger. I’ve been there before. I know that he coffee is good and the service is fast.

    I arrive at Pret A Manger and it’s heaving – people almost queuing out the door. I almost abort the idea. But I notice that the queue is moving – and moving fast. Within a couple of minutes I am at the counter and being greeted by a smiling face, wishing me good morning and asking what I would like.

    My order is taken. There are six people serving and three people operating the baristas. Everyone is smart and everyone is extremely busy. Everyone looks like they want to be there. The different coloured shirts show who does what, the teams work like clockwork. A multi-lingual team serving multi-lingual customers. Some people might even call this choreography. My coffee is served and is exactly what I expected. The price is too and I am wished a good day.

    Despite ordering a coffee to go I decided to stay a while. What I observed was fantastic. The speed at which people were being served is incredible. But the team still had time for manners. They realised what their customers wanted and the speed at which they needed it.

    Another member of the team was merchandising, making sure that shelves were stocked and easy to select from. She skillfully manoeuvred around the customers who were phoning, texting and dragging their luggage.

    From downstairs, other employees were frequently appearing, restocking the shelves with freshly made baguettes and croissants. The concept of teamwork was being displayed.

    As I look around the coffee shop the company’s vision and purpose statement was visible to see. Those working behind the counter could not miss it.

    So what did I learn from this organised chaos, this choreography? Here are my learning points:

    • Employees need to know what they’re doing. They need training to equip them to do the job they are expected to do.
    • Employees need to be clear on their roles, working in unison. To achieve this, they also need to know the roles of others.
    • Employees need to have the equipment to use, serviced and in working order. It needs to be ergonomically designed – for the employees and the customers alike.
    • Employees need to be smart in appearance and smart in attitude – courtesy costs nothing but makes money.
    • Employees need managers to give direction yet be observant to give support when necessary.
    • Employees need to see the vision and connect with how their performance impacts the business strategy.

    I could go on but I am sure you get the picture. Employee engagement and customer excellence are intrinsically linked. Congratulations to Pret A Manger for making it happen. And it’s not just happening in Victoria – I am a loyal customer to Pret A Manger in Central Milton Keynes too.