Over the past few months, I've been reading a lot of books on customer service.
Joseph A. Michelli's The New Gold Standard, which describes how The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has created a culture of extraordinary customer service, is an enjoyable reminder of a basic truth.
That truth is simple: Many organizations have passed out cards with slogans or messages urging staff members to attend to customer concerns. Michelli examines, however, how The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company goes far beyond a few simple gestures and quick fixes to create daily reminders of their commitment. With the motto, "Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen," The Ritz-Carlton folks have daily line-ups to discuss and inspire customer service. Although such meetings are common in the food and beverage industry where the chef may let the wait staff sample the evening's special, Ritz-Carlton expanded the practice to other departments. Do all of them work? No, but they serve as a continuing reminder of the significance of customer service and they score enough to make a difference.
That's just one of their steps. The main reason for the success of their program rests in the company's attention to its employees. Unhappy and poorly trained employees do not provide excellent customer service. Michelli explores how Ritz-Carlton recruits, develops, and retains effective people. The overall goal is the creation of trust and that, in turn, lends meaning to all of the talk about the importance of the customer. If that trust were absent, the Ritz-Carlton's gold standard would be tarnished and hollow.
That's why The New Gold Standard is more of a management book than a customer service guide. Manage effectively first and the other actions will be credible if you have the will to make such service a centerpiece of your organization.