Puttin’ on the Ritz

Renowned psychologist and keynote speaker, Joseph Michelli, probably understands the importance of providing excellent customer service better than anyone. Across numerous books, he has explored the branding, service, and excellence that has allowed certain companies—from Starbucks to Mercedes—to stand out from crowd and turn their product into an unforgettable experience. In his 2008 book, The New Gold Standard, honed in on the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the five leadership principles that have made them such a fantastic success.

He begins by laying out the history of the Ritz-Carlton, from the humble beginnings of Cesar Ritz to its current heights of success. One thing that has always made the company stand out was their drive to innovate and borrow good ideas from wherever they could. After World War II, the market for luxury hotels quickly shifted from old money and WASPy aristocrats to focus more on people traveling for business, conferences, and the like. Ritz-Carlton pivoted perfectly and now enjoy such a strong position in the market and broader culture that “ritzy” has even entered everyday vocabulary.

At the core of the book are the Five Leadership Principles. They are as follows:

  1. Define and Refine
  2. Empower Through Trust
  3. It’s Not About You
  4. Deliver Wow!
  5. Leave a Lasting Footprint

If there’s one unifying principle it is probably this: In a world were everybody’s attention is in high demand, customer satisfaction is not enough. Customer delight is the name of the game.

To achieve excellent, wow-factor, customer experiences, the Ritz-Carlton puts a lot of trust in their employees. The interview process is rigorous, but allows personal connections to form across all levels of staff and management. Employees must feel invested in by their managers. They are also empowered through trust to the tune of $2,000 per day. More specifically, every single Ritz-Carlton employee is entrusted to spend up $2,000 of the company’s money per day per customer to provide a totally personalized, exceptional experience.

The book is full of anecdotes of service success stories. Such anecdotes are actually key to the leadership principles as well. Everyday the different teams at a Ritz-Carlton establishment have a 15 minute huddle where they review the companies principles and share stories of outstanding service. This helps build a sense of community and purpose in the job at every level.

The New Gold Standard is well-written, engaging, and meticulously researched. The principles of humility and personal investment in your team are broadly applicable. No leader will get far without investing in their staff and listening to them. Give the book a read and start delivering excellent service and leadership today.

The New Gold Standard is available for purchase here.

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