What is a “non-negotiable” for Ritz-Carlton to engage it’s Ladies and Gentlemen?

Select. DevelopEngage.

These words are at the heart of Ritz-Carlton’s three people processes which result in a powerful, positive workplace culture where team members are inspired to create memorable experiences for hotel guests.

Client delight begins with engaged Ladies and Gentlemen, what Ritz-Carlton calls its employees.

Today, we turn to how Ritz-Carlton engages it’s Ladies and Gentlemen.

Strategy #1: The “Daily Line-Up.”

The Daily Line-Up occurs in every day in every department of every Ritz-Carlton hotel around the world.  This practice is another Ritz-Carlton “non-negotiable.”  

The 10-15 minute meeting is an exercise in communication and alignment.  Everyone on the team receives the same message.  

The agenda begins with sharing the “Gold Standard” of the day.  Next, associates recognize other associates for providing legendary service with the presentation of “First-Class Cards.”  Then, the team celebrates birthdays and service anniversaries.  Finally, a leader reviews any property-specific information (VIPs, guest opportunities, financial information).

Strategy #2: Rewards and Recognition

The presentation of First-Class Cards during the Daily Line-Up is a key element of Ritz-Carlton’s recognition strategy.  The person being recognized receives the First-Class Card which details the nature of the exceptional service performed.  Also, they are recognized in front of their peers.

Ritz-Carlton also does a “Five-Star” award program each quarter to celebrate associates who set the standard in dedication to their work, positive attitude and overall best-in-class performance.  These awards typically include a sizable cash reward.

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  What regular, recurring meetings or events could my company use to strengthen our workplace culture?

Action:  Lead a discussion with a colleague or with my team about how we might learn from and apply some of the Ritz-Carlton practices

How Ritz-Carlton hires the top 2% in the service industry

This week we are exploring “the system behind the smiles”: three key “people processes” Ritz-Carlton uses to create world-class guest experiences.  These best practices were shared by Ritz-Carlton as part of a six-hour virtual training I had the privilege of attending earlier this year. 

1: Happy clients are the foundation of all successful companies.  Happy clients buy more and tell their friends.  

Happy clients = Happy company.

But Ritz-Carlton understands memorable customer experiences which lead to “happy clients” will not happen without highly engaged, empowered Ritz-Carlton staffers.  

Their philosophy?  

“Employee engagement ties to client engagement.”  If we want happy engaged clients, it begins with happy, engaged associates. 

[Aside: “Happy associates = Happy clients” is the PCI business strategy.]

2: Today, we look at Ritz-Carlton’s robust talent selection process.  

Their goal?  

To select “the top 2% of people in the service industry.”  Ritz-Carlton believes there is simply no substitute for talent.  The best of the best.  No compromises.  The firm subscribes to the old adage: “Hire slow.  Fire fast.”

Their selection process is based on finding associates who possess the key competencies the hotel has identified that lead to success.  Many of the capabilities they look for are “soft skills,” including passion, perseverance, fire, and drive.  

Candidates begin by taking a timed, online assessment which seeks to identify people who possess a deep sense of service.  Ritz-Carlton believes someone can’t be taught to care.  

“You can teach someone the technical skills for a position or a role, but you can’t train them to have a sincere, caring attitude for others.  Particularly for customer-facing roles and front-line positions, we’re looking for someone with a service mentality.  If you don’t have that genuine desire to serve, it’s not going to come across as authentic, and our guests will know it,” says Jamey Lutz, author and former Ritz-Carlton Performance Improvement Leader.

Next, they conduct multiple rounds of interviews with potential candidates, including situational interviews where applicants are asked how they would respond in different scenarios. 

3: Selecting the right people is a key component of how Ritz-Carlton evaluates leaders.  Leaders understand they are accountable for the performance of the people they hire.

The final step in the process is to spend five minutes with the General Manager of the property.  No offer letter is given without this key step.

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  How would I rate my firm’s selection process?  Are we identifying and selecting the right talent?

Action:  Seek out a colleague and discuss.

How does Ritz-Carlton “operationalize” memorable customer service?

1: How does Ritz-Carlton consistently deliver world-class customer service across more than 100 luxury properties and more than 40,000 staffers?

How does the firm “operationalize” its motto of “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”?

Earlier this year I had the privilege of participating in a six-hour virtual training during which two answers became apparent.

Number one: “Employee engagement ties to client engagement.”  The hotel believes that memorable customer service does not happen without highly engaged, empowered Ritz-Carlton staffers.  

Number two: The firm has developed a set of highly specific “people practices” to select, develop, and engage Ritz Carlton staffers.

2: Today, we explore how Ritz-Carlton continues to develop associates after their onboarding day.

It begins with classroom training to teach “The Ritz-Carlton legendary manner of service to all Ladies and Gentlemen.” 

All new hires are taught “The Three Steps of Service.”

1: A warm and sincere greeting.

2: Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.

3: A fond farewell. Give a warm goodbye and use the guest’s name.

Next, a keen focus on practicing key service behaviors, empowerment, and problem resolution.  Throughout the onboarding process, “Learning Coaches” provide hands-on training. 

And finally: Practice, practice, practice!

Prior to joining their team, all new hires must achieve operational certification on specific skills and behaviors.  Legendary service requires flawless processes.  New hires are evaluated against the hotel’s Gold Standards.  During their first year, the newly hired “Ladies and Gentlemen” complete two evaluations to measure knowledge and performance.  All Ritz-Carlton staffers must be re-certified in their position every year.

3: There are three other milestone days for all new hires during their first year.  

On Day 21, new staffers participate in an additional day of classroom training.  Why Day 21?  It takes 21 days to form a habit.  The trainers aim to re-energize the Gold Standards and provide feedback to each new associate on what is working and what needs improvement.  The goal is to make corrections early.  There is also a “Gold Standards Philosophy and Culture quiz.”

There is another structured check-in with new staffers on Day 182, the half-way point of their first year.

On Day 365, there is a celebratory event rather than more classroom training.  Ritz-Carlton’s research shows that if a new hire makes it to the one year mark, it is likely they will become a long-time associate.

The goal throughout the Ritz-Carlton onboarding process is to engage each associate fully.  

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  What specific ideas from Ritz-Carlton could my organization utilize to develop new hires?

Action:  Do it.

What are the foundations of the Ritz-Carlton brand?

How does one of the world’s great brands deliver consistently memorable customer service?  

As we would imagine, there is nothing haphazard about their approach.  They are intentional.  Deliberate.  Specific.

It begins with the Ritz-Carlton motto: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Like all great catch phrases, the Ritz-Carlton motto is memorable.  It communicates exactly what makes Ritz-Carlton unique.

Next up is the Ritz-Carlton Credo which was introduced in 1985, shortly after the legendary hotel brand was reformed and re-introduced in the United States.  The meaning of the word Credo in Latin is “I believe”.  The Credo summarizes why guests choose The Ritz-Carlton.

“The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.  We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”

To create an environment of genuine care, personal service, and a sense of well-being, Ritz-Carlton staffers must believe in what they do.  As a reminder, each associate carries the Credo Card every day as part of their uniform.

The Ritz-Carlton “Three steps of service” outline the specific elements of what is expected:

1: A warm and sincere greeting.  Use the guest’s name.

2: Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.

3: Fond farewell.  Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.

In 1997, the hotelier’s team members created the Employee Promise which reads:

At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.  By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.  The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

At Ritz-Carlton, people are at the heart of the business.  The first sentence specifies that Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource.  The second sentence outlines the firm’s five principles: trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment.  The focus of the final sentence is diversity, quality of life, the fulfillment of aspirations, and “The Ritz-Carlton Mystique” – something intangible; an aura, a reputation.

Together, the Motto, the Credo, the Three Steps of Service, and the Employee Promise are key elements of the firm’s “Gold Standards” which provide the foundation for the firm’s goal of providing memorable customer service.

More tomorrow.


Reflection: Which element of Ritz-Carlton’s “Gold Standards” applies best to my organization and why?  Are there specific learnings we can apply?  

Action: Do it.

What mindset leads to client delight?  

At Ritz Carlton, they differentiate between three levels of service.

There is the minimum level, essentially giving the guest what is expected.

There is a second level where the guest has a request and the request is fulfilled.

Then, there is the third level of service where the goal is customer delight.  This isn’t “customer service,” but a “memorable customer experience.”  Something unexpected.  Something that will be remembered.  This goal was repeatedly emphasized in the virtual class I took earlier this year from Ritz Carlton titled: “Best Practices & Foundations of Our Brand.”

To play at this level requires Ritz Carlton staffers to be fully engaged.  It’s the difference between being fully present and anticipating client needs vs. being robotic and going through the motions.   

It begins with empathetic listening where we listen with our ears as well as our eyes and our heart.  

This type of listening is very different than listening with the intent to respond.  To do it well, we must slow down.  The goal is to pick up on all that is being shared.  We are not in a rush.  Busy is the enemy.  We want to be fully present, to engage all of the senses, and focus on the details.  Doing so allows us to anticipate and then to provide a memorable experience.  This mindset makes all the difference between “customer service” and “memorable customer service”.

At Ritz Carlton, this approach is practiced by all Ritz Carlton team members up and down the organization.  A Ritz Carlton staffer is not just a server in the restaurant or a front desk clerk, but a critical element in a system designed to deliver a memorable moment to each guest.  

In every interaction there is always an opportunity to “plus one,” to go above and beyond.  

Ask: how can we elevate the experience just a little to create a memory?  

Some organizations over-complicate service.  Instead, keep it simple: it’s about people taking care of people.

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  How might my organization capitalize on the Ritz Carlton concept of “plus one”?

Action:  Discuss with a colleague or my team.

What is the #1 reason clients leave?

“Why do customers leave?” is part of the research conducted by the American Society for Quality.

9 percent choose to go with a competitor.  

10 percent leave for logistical reasons (move, death, etc.).  

Another 14 percent depart because of product or service dissatisfaction.

What is by far the biggest reason that clients leave us, scoring 67 percent?

An attitude of indifference on the part of a company employee or team member.

Each client-facing person in our organizations has the ability to destroy the consumer experience and send our clients running.  

This research is aligned with data that shows 90% of communication is not the message, but how the message is delivered.

These metrics were shared as part of a virtual class I took earlier this year from Ritz Carlton titled: “Best Practices & Foundations of Our Brand.”

At Ritz Carlton, they aim to develop team members up.  Or, out.  


Ritz Carlton staffers are expected to be passionate advocates for their brand and culture.  During a year-long onboarding process, associates move from “hearing it” in their first four months, to “believing it” in months five and six, to “living it” where they personalize, internalize, and promote the Ritz Carlton brand.

Ritz Carlton teaches a five-step process when a guest has a problem.  

Step 1: Dream it.  Each associate is entrusted to spend up to $2,000 per guest, per day to come up with creative solutions to solve guest frustrations.

Step 2: Mean it.  Focus on repairing the relationship.

Step 3: Own it.  

Step 4: Resolve it.  Stay with it until the guest is satisfied.

Step 5: Record it.  Capture the lessons learned.

Driving service excellence begins with a full commitment from top leadership.  Leadership must live it every single day.  

But leadership is not reserved for just the C-suite.  At Ritz Carlton, all associates are expected to be leaders as captured by their slogan:  “Every customer.  Every time.  Always.”

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  How might my organization learn from Ritz Carlton’s five-step process to address client issues?

Action:  Make this an agenda item at an upcoming team meeting.