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The headline of the Ritz Carlton Web site reads, “Welcome to Ritz Carlton. How may we be of assistance?” That's awfully warm and welcoming for an exclusive luxury hotel, I thought.

The Ritz Carlton brand promise is also clearly and succinctly stated on their home page: “The finest personal service and facilities around the world.” So I thought I would put my professional branding hat on and check out the “finest personal service” for myself.

As those of you who travel extensively know, it is hard not to be blasé about a hotel stay. No matter how luxurious the accommodations, it's still not home. It's just the place where you keep your stuff in between flights.

Although I was tainted from years of going from point A to point B with a stay at hotel X in between, this journey was a bit more exciting for me. I am passionate about branding and wanted to see for myself why the Ritz Carlton brand is so often held up as the gold standard for customer service. (By the way, I have no affiliation with Ritz Carlton.)

I was able to witness some of their brand promise the moment I stepped in their New Orleans hotel.

I was greeted with a giant smile when I arrived at noon. To my delight, my room was ready.

The suite for the gentleman standing next to me, however, was not. He was asked if he wouldn't mind having a complimentary drink in the lounge. They said that they would take his luggage to his room and unpack it for him if he wanted and they would find him or call him on his cell phone as soon as his suite was ready. The registration manager was extremely apologetic despite the fact that the guest had arrived three hours before the scheduled check-in time.

Making my way from the lobby to my room, I realized that every detail about this hotel was p-e-r-f-e-c-t. I couldn't find a paint chip, a stain on a rug or a scratch in the furniture anywhere. The amenities were extraordinary—the furnishings consisted of perfectly restored antiques, the linen was from the exclusive Italian home wear company, Frette, the artwork was original 18th and 19th century oil paintings and elaborate, all-yellow fresh flower displays adorned virtually every surface.

This was certainly consistent with the brand promise of “the finest facilities.” But it was not the over-the-top amenities that I was there to check out; it was the brand promise of the “finest personal service” that interested me.

I had an opportunity to test it when I could not get my computer to connect to the Internet. A technician wearing a “Care Team” shirt came to my room within two minutes of my call. He was polite, efficient and extremely apologetic even though it was I who was not following the connection instructions properly.

Every employee I passed said hello or asked if I was enjoying my stay; the robe that I requested arrived within five minutes of my call; and my shoes were hand-delivered from being shined in brand new Ritz Carlton shoe boxes wrapped in Ritz Carleton tissue paper. It was like I sent out my old, worn out shoes and received a brand new pair in return.

During my two-day stay, I had more contact with Ritz Carlton employees than the manager on duty. I had interacted with the front desk, housekeeping, the concierge, the bellman, the spa staff, the “Care Team” and restaurant staff. Every conversation with a Ritz Carlton employee started with “how may I assist you?” and ended with “that will be my pleasure, Mr. Arruda.” I became accustomed to this tremendous level of service. Who wouldn't?

And although all employees said essentially the same thing, it was not at all robotic. Employees seemed to be able to deliver consistently on the brand promise in a way that allowed them to express their individual personalities. There was something about them that made you want to interact with them. Perhaps it was the feeling that they really did enjoy their jobs.

On my last day, I called housekeeping and asked for a lint brush. About 20 minutes later, I was really surprised that it had not arrived. After all, my expectations were high. I was used to “the finest personal service” and it always seemed instantaneous. When it finally did arrive, it came with numerous apologies for the delay.

I realized in looking at what they handed me that this truly was the finest personal service. My request for a lint brush must not have been a common one. To ensure that I wasn't disappointed, instead of telling me that they don't have brushes they left the hotel to buy me one. That's what had caused the delay. They didn't even tell me that they had gone out to buy it; I just discovered it from the packaging.

My initial experience with the Ritz Carlton Web site promised me the finest personal service, and that promise was kept through every interaction I had with the brand. From my initial experience at check-in to my last conversation with the bellman, the service was nothing short of exceptional. And it was the personal service, not the finest amenities, that made my stay such a pleasant and memorable one.

Ritz Carlton's success with branding lies in the way it has engaged its brand community in executing on the brand promise. Every employee gets it. They just get it—and are able to deliver on it consistently. That is what makes the Ritz Carlton brand synonymous with extreme customer service, and that's what turns customers into evangelists. We can all learn from what Ritz Carlton has accomplished. Socializing the brand is good for business. When your brand community clearly and consistently delivers on the brand promise, you delight your customers. As a delighted customer myself, I, too, am now a member of their brand community; and I have become their most fervent brand evangelist. Stay at a Ritz-Carleton and become one too!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of William Arruda

William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda