Ritz-Carlton is famous for their amazing service philosophy, which they call their Gold Standards. Ritz-Carlton even publishes this on their website. Here’s their credo, for example:
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.
There are tons of amazing Ritz-Carlton service stories out there, though to some degree I can’t help but feel like it’s really tough for them to consistently deliver their above-and-beyond service:
- Like any business that’s growing, it’s tough to scale that kind of a customer service approach; a genuine desire to go above and beyond isn’t something which can be taught.
- When a company is known for going above and beyond then you start to expect such service… and when that’s the case, are they really exceeding your expectations anymore?
Well, a friend who is usually a Hyatt and Starwood loyalist just sent me an email about the amazing experience he had at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing after falling for one of Beijing’s most common scams.
The email is long, but you’ll want to read it, if you have the time. This story is amazing, possibly the best Ritz-Carlton customer service story I’ve ever read:
These days I wouldn’t normally invest the time to share our recent story, what with how busy we are planning a wedding and all, but with so many folks headed to Beijing, I thought it might be especially useful.
Now, if you think the Ritz-Carlton is absurdly expensive, I’m 200% with you on that. But for some strange reason, the Ritz Beijing is ~$200/night or 30,000pts/night, which I thought is a steal. Between the Marriott and Ritz cards I picked up with annual fees waived, I had more than enough points for the three nights we needed.
As for the experience itself, I’m embarrassed to admit that Robert and I fell victim to one of the oldest scams in the book:
We were approached by an unassuming mid-twenties lady in Tiananmen Square who I almost brushed off at first. But she quickly clarified that she overheard us speaking English, and that she just wanted to practice her English. I know, I know… dumb move to continue the conversation looking back. Anyway, after some great chatting, and tons of recommendations for places we should visit later, she eventually suggested grabbing a quick cup of coffee… and thinking to ourselves that it would be great to have a cool local experience, we took her up on the offer. Especially since we’d already come out to her, letting her know that we were planning to get married—so surely this couldn’t be some sort of sketchy money-for-sex type affair. Long story short, the bill came to 1,990 Yuan, or $331.40 at the time. Yes, for a quick visit to a café. As soon as I saw the check, my heart sank because I knew the exact scam from past research, and I couldn’t believe that a supposed seasoned traveler such as myself fell to the bait… hook, line and sinker. So dumb… so dumb.
Anyway, he’s where the story gets good. After ruminating on our options for the rest of the day (bad, worse, and even worse), we eventually decide the following morning to tell the young concierge Figo Xu. After hearing our story, he politely excused himself to summon the Duty Manager, Rosalie Luo. At that moment, it was like a machine had suddenly swung into motion. She requested that, while she calls the police, we return to our room to email her the pending credit card charges from Citibank’s website. We were hesitant to go to the Police as we didn’t want to let the experience ruin our entire trip, since we knew that a police experience could take hours, and that day was our only chance to visit The Great Wall. She said no problem—our car will take you to The Great Wall and back, and then you can go to the police after you return.
So sure enough we return from The Great Wall in the afternoon, and instead of sending us off to the police as she originally planned, her manager, the Director of Rooms, Roland Wang, who reports to the General Manager, had decided that he would personally drive us to the Tiananmen Square police district office in case we need translation assistance. After having just been scammed, we asked the first question that came to mind: “Will there be a charge for this ride?” After he chuckled and said “Of course not!”, we felt especially embarrassed for even having asked the question… having realized that we just looked a gift-horse directly in the mouth.
This next part of the story is long, but let me summarize:
- It took us 30 minutes to get to the Tiananmen Police District Office
- The Police took us to the café, where we renegotiated the bill from $331.40 to $50 USD
- It took 90 minutes to get back to the hotel, thanks to Beijing traffic
- All in all, the Director of Rooms was absent from the hotel for ~3.5 hours, from 4 PM to 7:30 PM
Why is this so amazing?
- At 8 PM, the military government of Thailand was to arrive. 59 rooms were booked for the entourage. Not only the GM, but the Owner himself were waiting in the lobby to personally greet them. As you can imagine, all hands are on deck for an event like that, and yet the Director of Rooms was off gallivanting with two “no-status” guests.
- Our incident had absolutely nothing to do with the hotel. 100% of it took place in Tiananmen Square. They could have washed their hands clean of it, and we wouldn’t have judged them for it. They had no duty or responsibility to us.
But they didn’t look at it that way. Rosalie and Roland felt a debt of personal responsibility for the entirety of our experience in Beijing, and they took ownership of making sure that every single moment of the rest of our stay was better than a perfect ten. They virtually adopted us and treated us like family. For example, Roland called Rosalie no less than ten separate times during our 90-minute circus drive (i.e. traffic) back to the hotel, planning out every aspect of the rest of our stay. Of course every single phone call was in Mandarin, so it was intended to be a surprise.
By the time we had returned to the hotel, the lobby was filled with every possible staff-member awaiting the Thai delegation (again… including the GM and owner), but the majority of the staff (Roland, Rosalie, Matei, Ksenia) were all keeping us company instead, while our Uber was on the way to take us to the special dinner that they planned out for us while we were heading back from the police department.
Speaking of which, even though the Uber was shown as only 4 minutes away by distance, Rosalie insisted that I give her the phone number of the driver so she could give him directions to the hotel. 30 minutes later (yes, 30), that driver canceled due to traffic in the vicinity causing gridlock, caused by the Thai delegation. So I requested another Uber, and then Rosalie of course called that driver as well. This time, she negotiated a deal: If we walk one block to the driver (to save 20 minutes of insane traffic), he will wait 20 minutes before turning on the meter after picking us up!
Can you believe that Rosalie joined us in the Uber as well?!?! She escorted us all the way to the restaurant, interpreted the entire menu for us, and placed our order for us! Then, when she was confident that everything was taken care of, she got back into the Uber again and rode home for the night.
I had previously mentioned in passing to Roland and Rosalie that I was sooooo looking forward to enjoying the famous Ritz-Carlton Afternoon Tea, but that our flight was too early the following afternoon, making it impossible. So of course they didn’t skip a beat— the following day, they not only opened the Lobby Café early just to prepare Afternoon Tea just for us, but they also comp’ed the entire affair and sent the GM to sit with us for half an hour to get to know us better, express his apologies for our experience in Tiananmen Square (not his fault!!!), and to let us know that he would be happy to help us out at any other Ritz in the world if ever we needed it.
As I told him in my Thank You note, I have never experienced anything like this before. On the spectrum of service quality, there is a “0” for terrible—and a “5” for Personalized Service, where every member of the hotel staff greets you by name as you walk by.
Well, I would describe this as a 17.
It’s not even on the spectrum, and I don’t ever expect to have an experience like this ever again. It’s all downhill from here, I guarantee it. I just can’t imagine an entire hotel swinging into motion just for us, especially while a freakin’ government delegation is literally seconds away from arriving, with pomp and circumstance, consuming a whole floor of the hotel.
Amazing, amazing, amazing! And while I’m not usually a Marriott/Ritz guy, I’m now tempted to stay here during one of my upcoming visits to Beijing. It’s one thing when one employee goes above and beyond, but when genuinely taking care of guests comes across as a passion of the entire hotel’s staff, you can’t help but smile.
Contrast this to my experience at the W Barcelona, where my mom was robbed at the hotel. We took full responsibility for what happened, and all we wanted from the hotel was some help in figuring out what happened, given that they presumably have some security system in place. Instead we got unrivaled arrogance and indifference, including from the general manager. That’s why I found the above story about the Ritz-Carlton to be especially heartwarming.
Again, kudos to the Ritz-Carlton Beijing on this. Talk about going above and beyond and then some!