Best-selling author Joseph Michelli has chronicled the success of leading global brands such as Nordstrom, Mercedes-Benz, Zappos and Ritz-Carlton. In his book, The New Gold Standard, Michelli points to five leadership qualities that elevate Ritz-Carlton above other brands, including a quality he calls, “WOW: the ultimate guest experience.” Here’s a look at how three hotel companies are delivering “WOW power” to create strong, long-lasting customer relationships.
“Puttin’ on the Ritz” to satisfy customers
According to Forbes, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company empowers staff members with up to $2,000 in discretionary dollars – per employee, per guest – to solve any customer complaint in the manner the employee feels appropriate. While no employee has ever had to resort to using all the funds, just knowing they are available reaffirms Ritz-Carlton management’s unwavering commitment to their staff.
Forbes columnist Micah Solomon says this practice empowers hotel staffers to respond to service issues in powerful, immediate ways, without having to wait for a manager’s approval. “This carte blanche approach has grown even more important in these days of customer rebellions Twittering out of control,” says Solomon. “Only with immediate and broad discretionary powers is there a chance your front-line employees will be able to defuse complaints before they get posted online.”
Solomon summarizes the Ritz-Carlton’s WOW power this way: “Business works best when you provide employees with well-defined standards, accompanied by the reasoning behind them, and autonomy in how they are carried out.”
Marriott offers rewarding experiences
According to Skift, Marriott is rewarding its most loyal program members with three new, exclusive offers and programs. The first is the “experiences marketplace,” which enables Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members to access specially curated events and activities during global hotel visits. Imagine getting tickets to a Broadway show in New York, meeting a favorite sports team in Europe, or joining a celebrity chef at a private culinary event! Members can apply their Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Rewards points to purchase an experience.
The second is an exclusive concierge service for Elite members of Marriott Rewards. By developing personal relationships, the concierge will be able to anticipate and meet the members’ unique needs and preferences before, during and even after their stay. The concierge will be able to reserve on-property amenities like restaurants, spa treatments and golf, as well as make arrangements for special occasions.
The third perk gives Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Gold and Platinum Elite members guaranteed late check-out via the Marriott mobile app. “We’re evolving how we engage with, recognize, and reward our loyal guests,” says Thom Kozik, vice president of loyalty at Marriott International. “Loyalty is not just about our members choosing to stay with us. Giving our members even more flexibility, freedom, and opportunity to enjoy what they love most about travel – and life – is one of the best ways we can show our loyalty to them.”
Catering to Chinese traveler growth
Hualuxe is the world’s first international luxury hotel brand specifically designed for Chinese consumers. In January, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced the locations of its first two Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts properties in Greater China.
Capitalizing on China’s burgeoning growth in international commerce and tourism, 24 hotels in 20 cities have been earmarked, including Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. All 24 hotels are due to open over the next three to five years. The brand’s vision extends to 100 Chinese cities over the next 15 to 20 years. And as Chinese outbound travel continues to grow, IHG plans to introduce the brand in international destinations such as London and New York, to meet the specific requirements of Chinese travelers.
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