5-star service

5-star service

Use hotels' secrets to make your team's service the gold standard for veterinary practice.
Jan 01, 2006

I JUST RETURNED FROM A PRACTICE-management meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla. It was our 20th gathering, and we wanted it to be special, which is why we chose a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Everyone knows the Ritz represents the gold standard of service in the hotel industry. How do they achieve this lofty goal?

For starters, the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island sets itself apart with beautiful facilities and immaculate grounds. But above all else, its team consistently offers five-star service. Over the days of our retreat, I saw many examples of this great service ethic, but let me tell you just two stories.

Each team member makes a difference

Addressing customer service gone wrong
Here's the first: One of our attendees was in the ladies room and was impressed with its cleanliness and smell. When she left, the attendee saw a hotel employee and asked if she knew what was used for odor control in the restroom. (Granted, only a practice manager would ask this question.)

The hotel employee wasn't sure, but said if the guest didn't mind waiting, she'd find out. The employee handed the guest a newspaper (because she was going to have to wait), and radioed housekeeping. Within three minutes, someone from housekeeping arrived, told the guest what potpourri was used in the restrooms, and gave her a complimentary bag.

Now my second story: On Saturday, our group was having lunch in the courtyard. My table was talking about how great the hotel was and, in particular, about the customer service.

Right about then, a waitress walked by, and I asked if I might speak with her. Now, remember, she was in the middle of serving lunch, but she said, "Certainly," and stopped what she was doing to talk to me.

I told her we were discussing the great service at the hotel and asked how much training she'd received. She said she received two weeks of training before she could interact with a guest and receives continuous in-service training. Then she handed me a card from her pocket and said, "This is what we live by at the Ritz."

The card included the Ritz-Carlton Credo, the Three Steps of Service, and the Ritz-Carlton Basics, which is a list of the company's expectations of its employees. When I asked the waitress if I could get a copy of the card, she said, "Please take mine; it would be my pleasure." My table was left in awe of both the waitress and her training.

Training is the key

As I said, I could go on and on with stories, but the real question to me is how does the hotel chain get its staff to offer such service? And why can't we accomplish the same in our veterinary practices? The answers: Employees at the Ritz Carlton are provided with a two-week training program before they're even allowed to interact with guests. They're trained on the "Ritz-Carlton way" and, of course, customer service. And I believe we can take a similar approach and achieve similar service.

The card that the waitress showed me gives the essence of what drives the Ritz-Carlton. For example, their credo states: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed yet refined ambience. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.