The position now at the Ritz-Carlton hotel is my 9th (or so) major position in a “super-luxury” hotel. And what most companies don’t really want to know (or want to say) is, that at least their projected people focus, their vision & hallmarks are very similar.
Every hotel company would like to employ great staff – which looks perfectly after their customer – with the focus on great engagement and great friendliness.
Yes – the execution is widely different, as well as the operational priority of these goals (and I have to admit, that The Ritz-Carlton in my eyes have to most serious attempt to keep the guest focus consistently on a high level).
This is has following consequences:
- The industry becomes more guest oriented & the overall standard rises.
- It becomes difficult to differentiate one brand from the other – after looking behind the “hotel crest”.
- Guests are expecting the best service – anywhere, anytime.
There are definitely further issues – e.g. that attitude not necessary translates into great skills. But this I will keep for now for a future post.
The main issue from my perspective is the perception and expectations of a guest, when he has the first time contact with the hotel. If the person would have just heard of The Ritz-Carlton and would have booked a room, he or she would expect a “regal” hotel. Very luxurious, very polite staff – but maybe ever so slightly distanced & proud on the verge to slightly arrogant.
However the guest finds very personal, very warm staff, very “close” – almost like extended family members.
Don’t get me wrong here – this are great news for guests, which are regulars and staying again and again in the hotel! But it is also a dissonance between brand (and brand reputation) and reality.
We need some brands to be elevated, “not for the common”, “not easily accessible”. Brands like Ferrari or Zenith watches, aren’t the most accessible and “friendliest” brands.
It seems to be unexpected, but I sense that there are guests, which are not “fully engaged” not because we are too friendly, but because their expectations are not met due to our approach.
Think, that you wanted to buy a Ferrari but you sit in a Bentley – the interior is equally good (if not better), it is beautiful, there is nothing where you can point your finger on, which doesn’t meet your objective expectations (even the performance is more than what is needed in the real life usage), but just the arrogance and madness is missing. I know – this example isn’t really the best one could imagine…
It comes down to the guest psychology. There are brands out, which target casual luxury – and the guests would be happy. The challenge here is, that The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t really target with its brand to this market.
If I think about it, it is the moment, when an employee which seem to be very “regal” (excuse the repetitive use of the word- but there are few words which can describe this “attitude”) interacts with a guest and let his/her guard fall and become personal. This would be really “magical” moment.
In history the most “impressive” personalities were in positions, which gave them a sense of royalty, but they countered with warmth and friendliness (Princess Diana is coming to my mind). Yet, you cannot be “Barney” in a top-luxury hotel uniform… There has to be a transformation happening, which creates this “magic”.
The challenge would be, how to manage to have this different “feel” at the hotel.
At The Ritz-Carlton I do feel, that the corporate, but also the top management does a lot to instil the Ritz-Carlton culture as well as that we are a very special hotel company. However truth to be told, that at times this got lost in the day to day operations. Hence yes – it will be a challenge to implement this even more complex philosophy.
I guess uniforms is one thing, which can visibly do a change. I am thinking of a mixture of the past and the present… traditional formats hotel uniforms with contemporary cuts & details.
Maybe the name batches would be another thing, which could make a difference – instead of Dominik or Dominik Schachtsiek, Mr. Schachtsiek or Mr. Dominik S. would make a statement (eventually our credo is “We are ladies & gentlemen, serving ladies & gentlemen).
Using the good name makes us very casual in our environment – maybe at times too casual; – hence changing this, could “raise awareness”.
Having elegant events (like a GM’s cocktail), with a bit more of conventions, would also give the guests the sense of dealing with a “royal” hotel.
This is my personal opinion! I don’t meant to say, that there is something substantial wrong in our overall strategy… but I think, that there is definitely an opportunity to build the brand stronger. Maybe this would result in a decline of growth of the brand. But this could be countered with the creation of a brand, which is less regal and more accessible, yet as luxurious as the Ritz-Carlton. And I took only The Ritz-Carlton as example, because I am working here and have experienced the culture. I am sure, that you could say the same for FourSeasons or Mandarin Oriental…
What do you think? Am I maybe totally wrong – or is there truth in my opinion?