Recently, on a stopover from Bangkok to Miami, my wife and I decided to spend the night at Sharq Village Resort & Spa in Doha, so I can attend a business meeting at the same time. I have always been a loyal fan of the Ritz-Carlton brand , not only because they have magnificent properties but because there is always something to learn from the ladies and the gentlemen who work at these properties. Those who know me, they know, that I am so fond of the RC customer experience philosophy that I created the first series of dental clinics in California based on the Ritz-Carlton leadership philosophy which became a big hit and it certainly pushed other dentists to raise their standards in developing nicer offices and offer better quality of service for their patients. Even though many of them hated me at the time as it looked like that I was disrupting the original mom and pop dentist practice, then later on they admitted that following some of those RC principals that I preached about in my lectures, helped them gain competitive advantage over their competition and they attracted higher quality patients to their practices.
Seven days, three days and 24 hourS, prior to our arrival I received a warm greeting email, welcoming us to their property and asking us if there was anything they can do to make our trip more memorable. Since my travel and meeting coincided with our anniversary, I asked them to reserve a table at their Persian restaurant so we celebrate over a skewer of Chicken Kabob and various fine Persian appetizers. Without really much expectation, we arrived at a reserved table covered with Rose petals and our meal ended with an amazing chocolate mousse cake along with a small fire cracker on the side, a personal visit from the chef and the F&B manager. As we left the restaurant and head back to our room, the biggest surprise was finding our room decorated with all sort of anniversary celebration banners, balloons and a framed picture of us and our two dogs with almost everyone at the hotel signing their names to acknowledge our celebration. WOW!!! What an amazing way to make a memorable experience for a customer. Knowing that from our previous profile that we like dogs, they even had designed dog paws on the cake!!!
So why does RC team go out of their way to make guest experiences unique and personal? Why this does not happen routinely at other 5 star hotels? It is because RC leadership trusts their employees, empower and encourage them to become creative. There is no bureaucracies that inhibits or punishes creativity. Every employee at the Ritz-Carlton is empowered to spend up to $5000 per guest in creating memorable experiences or resolving issues that favors the guests. This incredible empowered leadership philosophy from top management has trickled down to every level on the organizational chart. It is no wonder that they continue to secure their position as #1 hotelier in the world, year after year.
So what can we learn from the Ritz-Carlton to apply in our own businesses?
1- Become intentional in creating an experience for each patient.
When we are intentional, we look for creative ways to make our patients feel special. Patients are our guests so we need to find ways that they feel important and welcome. If you want to create a memorable experience, begin examining your physical environment and see if it is conducive of a first class environment. Examine everything from the exterior to interior decor, the way our employees look, dress, groom and talk to each other as well as the music, sound and the smell that touch the senses. Being intentional means looking at every element that a patient will come in contact with and make it better.
2- Anticipate their needs
We need to teach our staff to be always on the look out to anticipate what a patient may need and that includes those accompanying a patient. For example, at my clinics, my staff were always empowered to order lunch or get a snack for the patient or the family member with them if their appointment went late over the lunch time. If a patient came in who was wearing glasses and they noticed smudges on their glasses, the staff were authorized to use a high quality lens cleaner with a nice soft cloth to wipe their glasses clean. If the patient was arriving at the time that it was raining outside, the staff met the patient by their car with an umbrella and escorted them inside. We are all humans and if we pay attention to what a patient may need, we can certainly wow them in the process.
3- Create a Cheat sheet for each patient.
A cheat sheet is small piece of paper or a side note on your program software that can record your patients' preferences. In casual conversation, make a note of what is important to your patient, record the important conversations so you can reference back to those points during the future visits. If a patient tells you that they are celebrating an anniversary or a birthday or if you notice there is a color that your patient wears more often, make a note of that and record it. You never know, when you can use the information that you have gathered in making them feel special.
4. Empower your employees to make decision on their own and give them a budget
As I said previously, The Ritz-Carlton empowers employees to spend $5000 per guest. Despite what many business leaders and owners may think, when people are trusted with that sort of generous budget, they tend to be very careful on how they spend it so the level of abuse is extremely low or non-existent. Each of our employees are grown up adults that make financial decisions on their own outside of work. Trusting them to make the same adult, grown up decisions for the company that benefits the company and the patients should be the least of anyone's concern. Go ahead and empower them, support them in the process and the results will be extraordinary. The budget does not have to be $5000 but it can be $200.
5. Reward best customer experience creativity and practices
To encourage the best practices and customer focused mentality among our employees, it is best if we reward the behavior. Make everyone in the company hear about an employee who did something unique for the patient, promote your staff, buy them lunch or movie tickets or whatever you think is appropriate to incentivize and reward ongoing creativity and excellent customer experience.
If you have additional comments as how exceptional customer service experience has helped your company , please comment below.
Allen Nazeri DDS is a leadership and management expert. He is the founder of Dr. Allen Nazeri Consulting & Investment Advisory Group focused on health care organizations where they like to improve operational efficiency, scale through strategic joint venture partnerships as well as raise funds from private equity investors or Initial Public Offering. He may be reached at Drallenci@gmail.com.
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