Why Ritz-Carlton Is A Cult Brand And You’re Not

The latest print edition of AdAge features a short but excellent article on the legendary success of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.

The article doesn’t say a word about advertising.  It does, however, address how Ritz-Carlton maintains a freakishly high level of word-of-mouth reputation.

It’s not complicated, and it’s not a secret.

Anyone could do it.

But most don’t.

There are three basic elements to the Ritz-Carlton philosophy:

1)  Every employee lives and breathes VALUES and SERVICE. Walk up to a Ritz-Carlton employee and ask about the 12 Service Values, and they’ll likely whip out a small pocket accordion file that features each value, three points of service, and the company’s credo.

Value Number One is:  “I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.”  Whoa. Even if the other eleven Values are blank, that one alone should blow your hair back.


2)  Every employee has AUTHORITY and RESPONSBILITY. Every employee of Ritz-Carlton has automatic authority to spend up to $2,000 to help a guest resolve an issue.  That’s right – $2,000 per guest, without having to obtain permission.  There’s a built-in level of trust, but with that comes a great deal of responsibility.  Once an employee gets a complaint, they own that complaint. No passing it off to someone else – they can get help, but they have to see the resolution of the problem through to the end.

You may not be able to afford $2,000 per customer, but what if you gave your employees authority of even $25 per customer to resolve problems?  And what if you made your employees see the resolution of a problem through to the end?  Imagine what kind of trust and pride that would build.


3)  Values, Service, and Pride are re-visited each and every day. This is the kicker, and the one reason why Ritz-Carlton is a cult brand and you’re not.  They didn’t just make up the values and customer policies then let it ride.  The staffs of each hotel meet at 8 a.m. every single morning to review their mission, discuss issues, and often times hail an employee for a specific success.  Pride and teamwork are reinforced each and every day in order to maintain consistency and to grow the brand.

Are you committed enough to customer experience to meet with your staff every day for a review of the company’s values, highlight customer resolutions, ask for help resolving problems, and feature success stories?  Do you have the fortitude that it takes to do it every single morning?  Because that’s what it’s going to take if you want to take your business to the next level.


Brian Bennett, a regional director for Ritz-Carlton knows that marketing and advertising have limited effect.  “It’s the positive experience that will make a guest who visits us five times a year visit us six or seven times.  The experience is what triggers change in human behavior and that change is pure profit.”

The recovery of the economy is still further off than we’d like to acknowledge.  Businesses that survive, and then rise to the top when times get better, will be those that take the Ritz-Carlton methodology and apply it to their own situation.  It’s not easy, and probably means a complete “lifestyle change” for your entire business.  But trust me – you need to do it.

The question is:  Will you?


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  1. […] Ritz-Carlton, every employee has automatic authority to spend up to $2,000 resolving issues for any one guest — without having to obtain permission from anyone. While […]



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