Years ago I worked closely with Weili Cheng, the General Counsel of Ritz Carlton Hotels. She co-chaired Georgetown Law CLE’s Hotel and Lodging Legal Summit, and did a wonderful job.

One day she invited me up to the company headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland. When I arrived at the office, she invited me into a daily meeting she participated in with several other corporate leaders.

I expected to enter a large conference room with a long table and chairs. Nope. It was a standing meeting. Each corporate leader stood in a circle and took turns speaking. Were they sharing financial data, employee challenges, hiring or firing decisions, or hotel capacity updates? Not at all.

They were sharing customer success stories. The top officials were sharing anecdotes and lessons that were transmitted to them by the managers and employees who reported up the chain to them. They did this every day. First thing in the morning.

I knew this company possesses a reputation for customer service. However, I had no idea how seriously they take that reputation. It is a reputation of which they are extremely proud and which they want to sustain.

After the meeting concluded, Weili explained to me that they strive to keep customer service front and center. They talk about it to new employees and make it an essential part of the onboarding process. They focus on it at team retreats throughout the company. They encourage all team members to post stories about positive customer service experiences whenever they occur.

What is the benefit of the company encouraging employees to share customer service successes?
-The sharing helps teammates feel good about working there.
-The stories motivate teammates to mirror the behavior described in the stories.
-The stories give employees new ideas about they too can serve customers
-The stories can go into an employee’s personnel file and be saved for annual reviews
-Customer service success stories can make their way into communications to Board members
-Most importantly, sharing customer success stories can contribute significantly to the building and sustaining of the company culture.

Every company wants to build and sustain a reputation for exemplary customer service. Such a reputation achieves several objectives:

-It tells potential employees that this is a good place to work, attracting top-quality talent
-It attracts investors who are seeking opportunities to support successful ventures
-It leads to local, regional and national awards, which help all stakeholders feel good
-It tells vendors that this is a good company with which to partner
-It attracts more customers, who are confident that they too will receive excellent service

Many years ago we were holding a big national conference at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, Virginia. Our team had slept over in the hotel the night before because we were planning to be downstairs for set-up at 6:30 am. When we arrived to set up, all our boxes were nowhere to be found.

They all had been shipped FedEx from our offices in downtown Washington, DC. We traced the boxes and discovered that they had been accidentally delivered to a different Ritz Carlton hotel. That hotel was a half hour away.

I and my team brainstormed what to do. Should we call a messenger service and ask that the boxes be delivered as soon as possible? Should we quickly get into our own cars and drive to the other hotel, load the boxes and bring them back? Should we change the start time of our conference, anticipating that we would not be able to commence on time?

While we were reviewing our options, a manager from the hotel walked up to us and asked what was happening. We explained our dilemma. Without hesitation, he said “I will take care of it. I will get my car and bring one of my colleagues with me. He will bring his car. We will bring all your boxes back here as quickly as we can.”

I asked, ”Do you have the authority to leave your post here and just go, taking one of your colleagues with you, without even checking with your own supervisor?”
He calmy replied, “We all are empowered to do what is necessary to help our customers. I do not have to get permission.”
I am confident that particular customer service story ended up being told in one of the early morning executive standing meetings. So please follow the lead of Ritz Carlton. Share your customer service stories with your teammates, with your managers, with your Board members.

It will be a win-win for you and your team.

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