Best lessons in customer service for airlines from Ritz-Carlton

Most airlines are squarely putting the blame for their woes today on fuel costs. Many are doing everything they can to cut costs by removing any little amenities they offered to passengers – from pretzels to in-flight video – and starting to nickel and dime them for any remaining amenities. But it is in times like these that airlines that take care of the customer – even relatively better care – will stand to gain not just a profitability edge over their competitors but also brand loyalty.

Given the circumstances, why not learn from the best in the hospitality business – The Ritz-Carlton hotel group. Not only is Ritz-Carlton known for service excellence, looking closely at their service credo and mission, you’ll realize that most of what makes them admirable doesn’t cost a bomb.

The best customer service in the world is free!

All Ritz-Carlton staff carry a laminated card in their pockets, which has on it the company motto, “Three steps of Service” and “The Employee Promise”. Contrary to the usually hard-to-decipher corporate speak, these are actually very easy to follow and implement. Even if airlines adopt the Ritz-Carlton credo, “We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”, their service would improve by leaps and bounds. Simply put, treating customers and peers with utmost respect (like ladies and gentlemen) will create an uplifting experience for everyone.

After treating everyone with respect, if airline staff can incorporate Ritz-Carlton’s “Three steps of service” into their daily routines, they would be winning many more hearts. The first is using a personal, warm and sincere greeting. This really does wonders. Anticipating and addressing guest needs leaves an indelible impression on the customers’ minds for a long time. Lastly, giving them a personalized, warm farewell will ensure that they remember their last moments on the flight with a smile.

Psychologically speaking, Ritz-Carlton is capitalizing on primacy and recency effects to create memorable experiences. In the middle of it all, they also ensure that customers’ needs are met well (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?). And frankly, this is really how companies should be thinking about creating memorable engagements with their customers. It simply works.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Prajakta

    Great article that connects textbook concepts to the real world scenario.

  • Zoe

    You mentioned that many airlines are blaming their woes on fuel prices.. But it is a fact that they are struggling due to rising fuel prices? Especially for discount airlines like Southwest, where the very reason why they exist is because of its low prices… And I think they are as efficient as they can be to keep other costs down already.

    Since they created their very own market, with a total different target group of consumers (compared to major airlines).. They might very well kill the market just by raising prices to accommodate for the fuel hike.. (although they still have a shelter for 3 years because of their fuel hedges)

    What do you think?

  • Ben

    While the Ritz-Carlton has an excellent credo, it needs to be translated into tangible actions. My experience with 3 different RC properties in a span of 6 months is indicative that the RC group is really losing its touch. Beyond carrying the card and training the staff, it is about identifying staff that believe in the credo. It’s even more unfortunate that the man who developed this credo for the RC eventually left it to start his own chain of hotels. That is something to await as his property opens in Singapore in a couple of years time. The RC has become a failing textbook case study.

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