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Q&A with Ritz-Carlton Global Brand Manager Caroline Gardner

How have you seen the luxury hospitality landscape evolve?

First, excellent service is no longer something you pay for; it has been democratized across categories and across the customer journey. This has raised guests’ expectations of what the luxury hospitality experience should deliver. It’s not enough that we deliver excellent anticipatory service; now we must also deliver deeply personal, sometimes transformational moments.

Second, our guests live an omnichannel life. As they toggle between the physical and digital world, they expect brands to do the same. Whereas technology companies have succeeded, non-technology companies are still catching up—and we must catch up. But catching up shouldn’t mean losing sight of who we are. Human interaction remains central to that, and technology has helped us improve how we interact with our guests, but we are acutely aware that our guests don’t want to be an ID number in a CRM system nor a factor in an algorithm.

How do you keep ahead of customer expectations?

The presence of personalization in everyday technology has changed what personalization means to the average consumer. It’s no longer about a brand knowing me and serving up what I want, it’s about how that brand is helping me to achieve my ideal self. The Ritz-Carlton has always been focused on each individual guest, but this shift has required us to up the ante on how we engage that guest in understanding their personal journey and what role we can play in supporting them on that journey.

We also observe the fragmentation of customer groups into ever more niche tribes. Talk to us about what this means for Ritz-Carlton.

Every guest that engages with The Ritz-Carlton presents an opportunity to create a guest for life. While they could be segmented into various groups (millennials, boomers, group, business, pleasure), each of the people in these groups are individuals who will have a unique relationship and interaction with the brand. Our service philosophy is that we have to understand each individual, and then deliver on their unique needs to create an emotional connection. This is not easy to do, and we have to be very intelligent about it, but it’s imperative to treat our guests as the individuals they are in each interaction.

That being said, we do find that as statistically diverse as our guests may be, they share a set of core values. Better defined by what they love than where they live, our guests seek brands that share these values, and thus we seek to align our brand framework to those values. Providing this strong framework and then empowering our Ladies and Gentlemen to deliver individual experiences is what creates The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.

What challenges does growth bring?

Delivering an experience that is relevant both globally and locally comes with unique challenges. First, ensuring we have the right Ladies and Gentlemen is critical to the success of each hotel and to their ability to bring to life The Ritz-Carlton experience. Thankfully, The Ritz-Carlton is rooted strongly in our Gold Standards, which ensures that no matter where you are in the world the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton will anticipate your needs and provide a fantastic experience.

Second, there are certain core truths in the expectations of a luxury guest (quality, craftsmanship, and thoughtful service) that we are committed to delivering. But doing so successfully means also responding to cultural preferences that may dictate how those core truths are expressed. Hiring local talent addresses one part of the challenge, but it is equally important to educate that talent on global trends and local guest expectations.

Want more? Read our interview with Christopher Hartley, CEO of Global Hotel Alliance.

 

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