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Archive for November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to take the opportunity to just say Thank You to all of the readers of my blog! I hope the posts that I have made have been insightful and hopefully helpful to your operations.

This thanksgiving, I would like to thank everyone who has been reading, linking to, writing about, and passing along my blog. I hope you have enjoyed the past 24 posts, keep reading and tell your friends about this blog.

The bottom line: Happy Thanksgiving!

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I would like to take time to tell everyone about my round yesterday at a newly renovated municipal Golf Course. The course has gathered a great deal of media attention related to the reopening as various celebrities were in attendance at the grand reopening.

Like many other golfers, I wanted to see the course after the renovation. Yesterday, I checked in at the pro-shop and the attendant took my money but did not convey the delay that I would soon find at the first tee. I was told to see the starter. Arriving 10 minutes in advance of our tee time, I saw approximately five groups on the tee. We checked in with the starter and I inquired about the delay. The starter’s response was “it’s not my fault.” I went in to the pro-shop seeking a partial refund. The attendant agreed to only charge us the twilight rate, since we wouldn’t be able to get in 18 holes. This, in my mind recovered the service error. However, we went back to the first tee and we found that the starter had given up our spot in line! Needless to say, we were not happy and we told the starter that we were never coming back. A single player that was paired up with our group had a similar situation in which the pro-shop lost his tee time and then, after he had checked in with the starter, the starter forgot that he was there.

So what went wrong? Simply put, the staff was incapable or not interested in serving the customer. This anecdotal story is a perfect example of how a disengaged staff can burn customers and, in the end, profitability. The municipal golf course is getting a lot of new customers that they have not had because of the upgraded facility. Unfortunately for the city, these customers won’t be back if the staff continues to perform their duties in the manner in which they currently are.

To make matters worse, the city has no independent means of actively capturing customer feedback. The city is completely dependent on the information that the management company is providing them. The only way that I could communicate my problems yesterday would be by sending a letter to the city. Instead, I will just tell all of my friends about the poor service that I had. I won’t be back and, based on the damage a negative referral causes, my friends won’t be visiting the course either. It’s too bad for the city that they have no solution to measure the customer experience and provide oversight on the performance of the management company. If they did, they would know they have a problem and could work to resolve their staffing issues. Instead, the tsunami of negative word of mouth will quickly erode the demand for the course and the city will be left with a $140,000 annual debt service payment in its wake.

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Forbes Magazine recently had an interview with Simon F. Cooper President of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. In this interview Cooper shares some of the secrets that have propelled Ritz-Carlton to the top of the pack in the luxury hotel business. Click here to read the full interview.

 Here were some of Cooper’s remarks that impressed me:

  •  “We entrust every single Ritz-Carlton staff member, without approval from their general manager, to spend up to $2,000 on a guest. And that’s not per year. It’s per incident. The concept is to do something, to create an absolutely wonderful stay for a guest. Significantly, there is no assumption that it’s because there is a problem. It could be that someone finds out it’s a guest birthday, and the next thing you know there’s champagne and cake in a room. A lot of the stuff that crosses my desk is not that they overcame a problem but that they used their $2,000 to create an outstanding experience.”
  • When asked how he measures success, Cooper remarked: “On the customer side, Gallup does phone interviews for us, asking two types of questions, functional and emotional. And Gallup has established “indicators,” where this is one question that, if answered as five out of five, indicates that all other questions will be answered positively. Our functional indicator is “The room was clean.” On the emotional side, our indicator is ‘I had a sense of well-being.’ We know we must first pass the functional question before the guest will focus on the emotional question.”

My Take: This interview really shows how the customer-focused culture that Ritz-Carlton has built, did not happen by accident. Ritz-Carlton hires only the best of the best. They are the best company in the nation for employee training (as recognized by Training Magazine) and they understand that a successful corporate culture requires senior leadership to live the values of the organization. Some of the tips Cooper offers may be helpful to your business. The key takeaways are:

  • Be selective with your talent acquisition.
    • In today’s current economic climate there is no excuse for hiring poorly.
  • Develop superior employee training and organizational communication programs to ensure a consistent guest experience.
    • Use programs like the lineup, a program Ritz-Carlton uses to get everyone on the same page. It’s important to take a little time to make sure every staff member is concentrated on doing the right things every day to wow the guest. For a brand like Ritz-Carlton, consistency is a key element in success. When I think of consistency, I think of Vince Lombardi’s quote: “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

By hiring the best talent and providing the best training to the superior talent that you have hired, you will be setting yourself up to win.

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