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12 Values Behind Great Service

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A lesson from the hotel industry.

Back in my newspaper reporting days, I had the opportunity to spend a good bit of time at a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, not staying there — I was on a journalist’s salary, of course — but tagging around behind the scenes, finding out why this particular Ritz-Carlton made it to the list of world’s 10 best hotels time and time again.

I think when you live near a hotel like that, you tend to take it for granted, because, after all, there’s no reason to stay at a place like that when it’s a 15-minute drive from home. At the same time, this fascination overcame me, because I wondered what could possibly be going on within those walls that was so great.

It didn’t take long to find out — or much investigative reporting on my part — that the secret was in the people. Not just that the hotel hired great people, it trained them and trained them. And then it empowered them.

Every Ritz-Carlton employee carries with him the company’s 12 service values written down on a card. Here they are, from the company’s website:

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Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

  1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
  2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  4. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  6. I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  7. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  10. I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
  11. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

The 12 self-empowering values, shared, carried, studied and lived by every employee are what lead to such legendary customer service stories as this one from Mental Floss:

Because of their son’s food allergies, a family vacationing at the Ritz-Carlton, Bali, was always careful to bring their own supply of specialized eggs and milk. In this particular instance, however, the food was ruined en route. The Ritz-Carlton manager couldn’t find any of the special items in town, but his executive chef recalled that a store in Singapore sold them. The chef contacted his mother-in-law, who lived there, and had her purchase the items, then fly to Bali (about 2.5 hours) to deliver them.

It also led to my own customer service story that I’ll never forget from The Dining Room at the Ritz. I had ordered Dover sole and asked for a doggie bag for the leftovers. My dinner companion and I joked that for once “doggie bag” wasn’t a euphemism — my beloved yellow Labrador was at home and in the final stages of liver failure. She could hardly eat anything, and for her to eat at all, it had to be awfully tempting.

The waiter returned with my bag, saying a steak had been cooked that evening to the wrong temperature and had not been delivered to another table. He had taken the liberty of wrapping that up as well: Perhaps my dog would go for that if the Dover sole didn’t suit her.

When I arrived home, inside the bag were two packages wrapped in foil and fashioned to the shape of dog bones.

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I’m hopeful you don’t have to be the dog person I am to be swayed by that story. Regardless, think of what a small gesture that was — that steak would have been in the trash can — and how much it meant to me. Do you sometimes wonder how you can get your own staff to think that way? What are your store’s values? Have you written them out? Does your staff have them memorized? If not, you couldn’t go wrong using the Ritz-Carlton’s as a starting point.

And one last suggestion: Spend the night in a Ritz-Carlton next time you get a chance. Sure, it’s expensive, and no, it’s not something I do often — and never, alas, as a company expense — but the price of a stay will be an investment in your business’ customer service. You can pretty much be guaranteed of checking out with ideas you can take home to put to use in your own operations.


This article was originally published in March 2013.

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Robert Bell

Stop Educating Your Customer!

You’re just doing it wrong anyway.

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JUST TO BE UPFRONT with you, I want to destroy the concept of educating your customer. Why?

Because it’s likely you’re doing it at exactly the wrong time and your product knowledge and expertise can be intimidating when used at the wrong time.

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Think about this: Have you ever been in front of a customer and felt they were starting to get uncomfortable when you began telling them about your products or expertise? I know you’re an expert at what you do but people tend to get a little uneasy when you start using technical language and optical jargon when describing products.

This leaves your customers in a situation where they really only have a few options:

  • They can stop you and ask you to explain, in layman’s terms, what you’re talking about … (this rarely happens.)
  • Their eyes glaze over, their listening stops, and they just nod their heads waiting for you to give them an opportunity to say “no” when you mention the price, or
  • They begin to feel so uncomfortable that they look at their watch and say, “Oh, look at the time. I really have to run back to my office (or pick up my daughter from soccer practice, etc.)” and they get the hell outta Dodge! Where do they go? Probably online, maybe to a Big Optical store but they’re definitely not coming back to you. Ouch!

C’mon, you’ve seen this happen … more times than you care to admit. It sucks! But, you keep on doing it. Why? Well, let’s take a look at that and see if we can’t turn this around for you.

When I ask ECPs why they do this, I’m told it helps establish them as the expert, and builds credibility and trust with the patient/customer. But something else, entirely different, is actually happening.

Look, it’s great to finally get to the point when you truly are an expert. It comes from years of hard work. In truth, it’s incredible and you should be proud! So, when you start talking about your expertise and product knowledge, it actually feels good. It’s actually meeting some kind of inner need … your inner need. Yes, it’s important to know your products; it builds your confidence. But, this expertise of yours should enable you to ask the appropriate questions to determine your customer’s needs … and that’s the part that usually gets lost in the shuffle. But, guess what? That’s the most important part of being an expert!

What I’m saying is you tend to shoot yourself in the foot, from a selling standpoint, when you start to use your product knowledge, technical terms, jargon and expertise to make yourself feel better about you. Don’t feel bad about this, it’s common in the selling process. But, now that you’re aware of it, you can correct the situation.

Your value, as an eyecare professional, is in the information you gather from your customers, not about the information you dispense. Once you gather all that info on your customer’s needs, then, and only then, is the right time to “educate” your customer.

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John Marvin

Customer Experience Isn’t About Bells and Whistles But Simplicity and Convenience

Espresso bars, large screen TVs and foot massages just distract from what customers really want.

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ATTEND ANY CONFERENCE about retail these days, and you’ll hear the phrase “customer experience.” Well-intentioned speakers talk about creating a differentiating “customer experience.” They say people don’t buy glasses, contact lenses or exams, they buy a “customer experience.” All this talk of “experience” is trendy and meant to convey insight into what it takes to be successful. But what is it? How can we create or improve something we can’t define?

To provide an experience, some ODs add espresso bars, large screen TVs, foot massages or X-Box stations to offer this ubiquitous and ever-elusive “experience.” I submit that emphasizing ancillary activities to create an experience distracts from what customers really want. Yes, I said customers. Part of the problem has been our reluctance to discuss those who purchase our services and products as customers, preferring the term patients.

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Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

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Words matter. They convey a certain perspective to our employees and to ourselves. We associate patients with hospitals, clinics and health care institutions. The practice of optometry does have a significant clinical element, but it’s also a retail business selling prescription glasses and contacts. A full two-thirds of the revenue generated for the vast majority of optometry practices is from the retail side. Understanding the customer is critical to being successful. Taking customers for granted provides an opportunity for disruptors to give them what they want, how they want it. There are three keys to demystifying and creating a successful customer experience:

SIMPLICITY. Everyone is busy and bombarded with too much information. We wake up with digital assistance that tells us the news and weather and what our commute time will be. We are flooded with information. Then customers are overwhelmed with decisions when they schedule appointments: What insurance do you have? What is your group number? Which plan are you on? What is your deductible? What does your insurance cover? Followed by purchasing decisions… Do you want the best lenses, better lenses or good lenses? Do you want anti-glare? Lenses that protect from blue light? What is blue light? Do you want computer lenses? What are they? Do you want a protection plan for your glasses? What does the plan cover? And that is just for the first pair of prescription eyewear … what about multiple pairs? People crave simplicity. How can you provide it?

CONVENIENCE. People make purchase decisions based on convenience; not just of location, but also of experience. Amazon sold over $232 billion worth of goods and services in 2018 due to convenience. Open the browser, type www.amazon.com and voila, the retail world is at your fingertips. In most cases, it arrives the next day and the shipping is free. How convenient is it to shop with you?

PERSONABLE. You may be thinking, “Wow, I don’t know how I can compete,” but we can all be personable. One of the advantages of brick and mortar is social interaction with people. We like interaction that is meaningful and rewarding. We want attention and assistance. We love places that are welcoming and pleasant. This is an advantage optometry practices have that cannot be matched online. This is the game changer if you focus on customer service. Hire enough people to provide personable service; it is a worthwhile investment. Equip employees with the knowledge and confidence to make the experience simple and easy to understand. Make sure your delivery processes of services and products are designed with customer convenience in mind.

Creating loyal customers who refer friends, family, and co-workers isn’t about espresso, movies or massages. It’s about giving customers what they want in a way that is simple, convenient and personable.

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Columns

Having the Appropriate Education and Information is Just Polite

Proper etiquette can result in a major boost to your office’s retention rate.

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ETIQUETTE CAN BE DEFINED in many ways, but for the purposes of this column, let’s say it’s best described as a set of rules about behavior for people in a particular profession. As opticians or eyecare professionals, proper etiquette means conducting ourselves in a manner that best suits our patients. I have found, when talking to patients, it is best to strike a balance and do my best to be simple … with just a hint of complex at the same time.

Our office has found that doing this and educating patients can result in a major boost in retention rate. For example, we don’t just tell a patient: “I need to take your PD.” The puzzled look on their faces should be enough to let you know they have no idea what you are talking about. Instead, we advise the patient we need to take a Pupillary Distance Measurement (see, this is the complex), then explain that the Pupillary Distance is acquired to ensure proper optical alignment for their eyewear. Or to simplify it even further:

“We do this measurement to line up your new lenses with your eyes.”

Using medical terminology in its proper form is the best way to educate your patients, but I caution, please be sure you know what you are talking about. We all share what we think we know about something … just to have someone else come after us and say it in a different way. This can confuse the patient and create a sense of mistrust. If you don’t know, don’t fake it! Research, find the answer, and it will mean more to you and your patient. Some of my favorite resources are Dr. Tim Root’s “Root Eye Network” YouTube videos for the medical side of optics and Laramy-K Optical’s YouTube channel for my technical optician needs.

Holding staff meetings and developing productive solutions for issues can establish a uniform way to engage patients by coming up with consistent phrasing that creates confidence and trust.

Take time to learn the basics: hyperopia, myopia, astigmatism, presbyopia. We see these diagnoses every day. Doctors don’t always provide clear explanations or provide answers to follow up questions. Having this knowledge ourselves will give our patients more confidence when ordering eyewear. Learn how these conditions affect your patients so you can relate to them and provide the best solutions.

Your knowledge, confidence and drive to serve your patients with the best care possible is the “proper etiquette” all our patients deserve.

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