The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center ( serves as a resource center not only for Ritz-Carlton employees, but for other organizations and businesses interested in benchmarking the business practices that led to Ritz-Carlton becoming a two-time recipient of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award.

Your business will succeed if you have a strong company culture. The culture and adherence to the principles on which it is based are the golden threads that run through and influence everything you and your employees achieve. For success to become a reality, employees must be trained so that their interaction with clients reflects the values for which your firm stands.

At Ritz-Carlton, we have a credo, a motto, and three steps of service that are critical. You can adapt these elements to the vision of what your company culture should be. What upscale remodeling companies and the Ritz-Carlton have in common is that both are service-oriented.

DETERMINE CULTURE The credo should be clear and easy to understand. Ours reads, “The Ritz-Carlton 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.”

Your company's motto, which reflects the business' attitudes toward service, should be succinct and easy to remember. Ours is: “We are ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Develop “steps of service” that sum up attitudes toward interactions between employees and your customers. The Ritz-Carlton's three steps are:

  • Greet guests warmly and sincerely, and use their names.
  • Anticipate and fulfill the guests' requests.
  • Bid guests a fond farewell, and use their names.

Of those three, the most challenging is the second one. It's easy to provide service if asked directly for something. The challenge is to cultivate what we call a “radar on/antenna up” attitude that enables you to be sensitive enough to your clients to anticipate their needs. SURPRISE AND DELIGHT Recently, when I checked into a Ritz-Carlton to give a presentation, I was losing my voice. Within five minutes, the person at the check-in desk had sent to my room a handwritten note with a tea bag enclosed in the envelope. The note said, “Hot water, lemon, and honey are coming.” Your employees can be trained to anticipate the needs of your clients, whether it's sensing when they need more frequent communication or a suggestion for a trustworthy storage venue for their furniture during the remodel.

Surprising and delighting your customers is the key to great service. Your employees can't be on autopilot when it comes to anticipating client needs.

It is also crucial that the management and owner of the company “walk the talk” as well. If they're not practicing service-centric values, you can't expect it from the rest of the employees.

REINFORCE VALUES DAILY We require employees to go through a formal, two-day orientation. To assure long-term that the cultural values are consistent in employees' minds after that, 15-minute meetings are held daily during which the company's values and how to apply them in everyday situations are discussed. Attendance is nonnegotiable.

Each Monday and Friday, outstanding examples of customer service are presented to motivate employees and help them internalize service values. These examples involve how employees treat one another as well as guests. Recently at The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, when a guest was asked what paper he wanted in the morning, he responded that he was not really interested in a paper, but was in the mood for pizza right then. A piping hot pizza was delivered to his room within a half hour.

Why bother with culture training? At Ritz-Carlton, we've quantified through research that happy customers spend more money. The advantage remodelers have over what we do at Ritz-Carlton is time. Our employees have, on average, 40 hours to get the job done and make an impression on the customer. With remodeling projects, you have weeks or months to forge positive relationships that can lead to add-ons and repeat business.