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How to provide exceptional service

The best in customer service requires a dedicated commitment.

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The best of the best customer service, says Damien O’Riordan, a 25-year veteran of the best in hospitality — The Ritz-Carlton — comes from a combination of constants.

Those constants are like a ladder: every rung needs to be there to make it all work in concert. The steps, says O’Riordan, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, since 2013, include:

• Aim high: In the easier-said-then-done department, if the hire is off, O’Riordan says, then so will the other steps toward top-notch customer service. The Sarasota property gets some 60 applicants for one position. It uses a recruitment firm to weed out candidates, then hotel managers do extensive interviews. O’Riordan says some of the interview is on experience, but the hotel also prioritizes soft skills, empathy and problem solvers. “We try to select the top 1% of service professionals,” says O’Riordan. “There’s one thing we can’t train people to do, and that’s to care.”

• Set up well: Training could be the most important part of the Ritz-Carlton way. All new employees go through a two-and-a-half day orientation, specific to each property. O’Riordan, for example, has worked at six Ritz-Carlton properties, so he’s been to six orientations. “We explain our culture and philosophy before anyone gets to the floor,” he says.

Training is a long-term proposition at the hotel, lasting months, depending on the position. Day 21 of a new hires’ term is a marker, where managers check in and see if the employee is on the right track — and is the right fit. “That’s where we can identify gaps in training,” O’Riordan says. “That really sets people up to succeed.”  

• Model arrangement: The hotel’s motto, Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen, is key to providing exceptional customer service, says O’Riordan, because it provides a north star for employees to follow. Each Ritz property holds a daily line-up, where employees and managers go over the day’s events and any other issues — plus talk about customer service. Says O’Riordan: “Our gold standard (of service) separates us from any other luxury hotel property in the world.”

• Front line: Beyond selecting the best people, and providing the best training, an important key to service, O’Riordan says, is to allow employees to make their own decisions. It’s the hotel’s version of finding a way to yes. “We want to make sure our ladies and gentleman are empowered to solve problems,” he says. “That’s an important part of what we do.”


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