Recently, my family and I had a somewhat unplanned hotel stay that turned into an unexpectedly delightful experience – all courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta. I was returning from vacation with my family and as we always do when we leave a vacation, we dragged our heels, kicking and screaming, desperate to stay “on vacation.” Surely if we pretend the real world doesn’t exist a little longer it might actually stay that way, right? So we left DisneyWorld late – too late – and ended up trapped in the quagmire of Atlanta traffic on a Friday night (which shouldn’t have been unexpected since we used to live there). In any event, I snagged us a room at the Ritz and we finally arrived around 8:30pm.
Now, bear in mind, I have young kids with me (aged 6 and “almost-four”) – little monsters who’ve spent the last week at DisneyWorld staying up late, watching fireworks, meeting Anna and Elsa, and experiencing the magic that you can’t help but experience at Disney. We’re a tough crew to impress as we expect magic – people flying through the air, talking mice, pixie dust, and the like. Since it was so late, we ordered room service the second we arrived since we had wasted away to practically nothing after nearly eight hours trapped in a car with a moratorium on stopping for any reason other than the call of nature. When our food arrived, the woman who brought our food was very kind, helpful, and pleasant. My daughter saw this as the perfect opportunity to MORTIFY me as only children can.
My “Almost-Four-Year-Old”: “I loooooovvvee champagne. Did you bring champagne?”
Server: ::laughs uncomfortably::
Almost 4-Year-Old: “I drink Kids Champagne all the time. I love it so much. It’s my favorite. I got to drink out of a breakable glass with kids champagne in it at Disney World. ” (imagine this all said as one thought)
Me: ::hiding behind my hands:: “She means sparkling cider. She likes sparkling cider a lot. She thinks it’s champagne.”
Server: “Oh, I see.” Insert some kind quote about how cute/precocious my daughter is.
Now, about twenty minutes passed and there was a knock at the door. We were all deep into the orgy of food we’d ordered at this point since we may have just called room service and said “bring us all the things” – and thus weren’t expecting anything else, so I went to the door and was incredibly surprised by what I saw.
Our server had returned with a silver champagne bucket and Martinelli’s sparkling cider on ice, chilled, with two champagne flutes for my kids, and completely free-of-charge. We were so shocked, thrilled, and unexpectedly surprised by this incredibly touching gesture.
The underlying principle at hand here is to fulfill even the unexpressed wishes of the customer. In this case, our server heard my child’s utterly ridiculous ramblings, anticipated that there might be a tantrum (or more likely, an endless stream of questions and statements about “kids champagne” for us), and brought something that she genuinely liked, even though we didn’t order it or think about ordering it, which turned out to be an incredible treat for her and a delightful moment for us. She knew we’d like it, so it was provided. It was a completely remarkable experience. The Ritz is well-known for their exceptional customer service (does anyone remember the story of Joshie the giraffe?) and while this story is a much smaller version of that, it embodies the same spirit of not only customer service, but complete and total brand identity.
Everyone who works at the Ritz understands their branding as a luxury hotel (perhaps even THE luxury hotel) to provide a travel experience beyond compare. Their branding is so deeply woven into their staff that everyone from the person in the laundry who found Joshie, to the Loss Prevention team that took pictures of Joshie, to the woman who delivered our room service and brought my crazy daughter kids champagne in a real champagne flute. Their branding is not isolated to the C-suite or the marketing department. Their branding is in every expression, every gesture, every smile, every online experience that you have with them. It’s consistent, it’s cooperative, and it’s remarkable.
The end result: I’ve already booked another stay preceding our next vacation to make sure we get to experience even more time at the incredible Ritz-Carlton Atlanta.