How Your Wellness or Fitness Business Can Deliver Ritz-Carlton Service on a Ritz Cracker Budget

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If your wellness center, fitness studio or health club is small, you may sometimes lament all the (perceived) power and dollars that the big chains have at their disposal to make their business profitable and successful. But consider that a big key to loyal customers and business growth lies not in just how big your budget is, but in how well you deliver your service.

Excellent customer service which is delivered uniformly – from every employee and every day – starts at the top. It’s a culture that business owners, managers and supervisors cultivate. A supreme example is the Ritz-Carlton. This international chain can teach any business, big or small, a little something about customer service.

Customers For Life

The Ritz-Carlton operates from a foundation of what they call “Gold Standards”, but unlike a lot of other companies with mission and vision statements, the Ritz-Carlton staff really does put into practice what is stated on their website and brochures.

Here’s a stunning example: any employee in any position, from housekeeping to management, is empowered to spend up to $2,000 to resolve a guest problem, complaint or inconvenience, WITHOUT managerial approval.

And the staff doesn’t wait to hear about a complaint or concern. In fact, inconveniences for guests that don’t even have to do with the hotel are addressed by the proactive staff.

If they learn that a guest has forgotten or lost an important item (shoes, sunglasses, etc.), Ritz- Carlton employees will often purchase replacement items for that guest. That’s how they’re trained. To anticipate guest needs.

It’s treatment that keeps guests coming back.

A New Attitude

“Anticipating guest needs” – it’s this mindset that describes how the employees understand their role. They know it’s their job to do whatever it takes to make guests happy. And the company does their part by granting their staff with the authorization, autonomy and power to take care of their guests.

What, you don’t have $2,000 to spend on each customer? That’s perfectly fine because you can create the same culture and attitude without it.

Read their Gold Standards again. Not only is it clear that the employees’ sole duty is to make the customers feel welcome, at home, comfortable and relaxed, but it’s also clear that their employer values THEM. In fact, they are referred to as the “Ladies and Gentlemen of Ritz-Carlton”. Sure, they have a demanding role, but it’s acknowledged, not taken for granted. They get a lot of praise. That makes a huge difference. And THAT doesn’t cost money. It’s a paradigm that you can create.

Hire The Customer-Oriented Mindset

The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t hire and retain excellent staff by accident. They screen for the right attitude during the interview.

So when it’s time to hire, make sure candidates know the job requires a proactive and customer-focused mind set.

Devise questions that will reveal whether or not they have what it takes.

Also make sure they understand they’ll be empowered to make judgment calls – and will have the responsibility that goes with it.

Yes, you’re relinquishing lots of control.

Yes, finding and training the right people means more work up front. But it also means less headaches later.

Guidelines, Not Rules

Of course your staff needs parameters on what their job scope entails. But this can be accomplished with guidelines that still let them use their judgment on a case-by-case basis.

Let’s say you have a rule that says you don’t give refunds for monthly membership fees.

But if Mrs. Smith explains to your membership services staff that she had an illness or death in the family and was out of town for three weeks, what will your staff say?

If you’ve empowered them to make exceptions based on reasonable circumstances, the outcome for the customer will be much better.

For instance, an empowered employee could say,  “I’m sorry, Mrs. Smith. Let me apply that payment to next month and take off the fees for this month. I hope you’re doing better.” rather than saying, “Let me talk to our manager, she’ll call you in day or so.”, or worse, “Sorry, but we don’t give refunds for monthly memberships. You signed a contract”.

You’ll do more training up front but it will be well worth it.

Management Sets The Tone

If you like the idea of stellar customer service, it’s within your power to achieve it. You can take the Ritz-Carlton model and tailor it to make sense for your business

Keep in mind that all of the steps and changes you make will rely on one main thing – the work culture that YOU create.

Be the example you want to see every day from your employees.

(More about just how special the Ritz-Carlton approach is here, and info on service excellence courses at their Leadership Center here.)

~Maureen Burke, The Radial Group