The Credo of Exemplary Customer Service

Several years ago, I attended a conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Amelia Island, Fla. The Ritz Carlton believes in and emphasizes customer service. It provides employees with a card called the Ritz Credo, which charges them to take whatever action is necessary to make a guest feel welcome. The Ritz Credo—“credo” is Latin for “I believe”—is required reading for every employee every day.

The morning after I arrived, I encountered a Ritz employee in the lobby and asked her where the dining room was. Instead of telling me, she escorted me there, even though it was out of her way. When I thanked her, she smiled and replied, “It’s my pleasure.”

I recently visited a “guild” jewelry store in a major shopping center near JCK’s office to have the battery of my Baume & Mercier wristwatch replaced. The contrast between my Ritz Carlton experience and the jewelry store visit couldn’t have been greater. It serves as a lesson in customer service.

As I entered the store, several sales personnel looked up, but no one greeted me. I walked to the service counter and waited as the salesperson finished writing something. The ensuing conversation went something like this: Can I help you? Yes. I need a new battery for my watch. Did you purchase the watch here? Yes, but at another mall location. It will take four to six weeks. To replace a battery? Oh yes. It might take a bit longer if Baume & Mercier finds anything wrong with the watch. Oh.

I handed over the watch. I had another watch I planned to wear while the Baume & Mercier was being repaired. The bracelet on this watch needed to have a link removed, so I asked the salesperson if the store could do it for me. She looked at the watch, told me they didn’t carry that brand, and suggested I take it to a nearby mall kiosk. “You have no one here who can remove a link?” I asked. Reluctantly, she asked one of her associates if he could remove a link. After taking a quick look at the watch, the young man replied, “Sure. No problem.” He quickly did the job and handed the watch back to me. As I started to leave the store, the saleswoman asked if I needed anything for Valentine’s Day. Finally, she tried to sell me something.

I received a call in mid-March informing me that the watch was ready. When my wife and I returned to the store, we received the usual greeting—none. I told the young man at the service counter that I had come to pick up my watch. He asked if anyone had called to tell us it was ready. I told him someone had. He asked my name and looked through a small file box to retrieve the paperwork. After consulting with the salesperson who handled the initial transaction, he retrieved the watch and gave it to me.

Making a potential customer feel welcome should be your first priority. Even Wal-Mart has greeters. Taking care of the customer—completely—is the next priority. Solve the customer’s problem; don’t send him elsewhere to get it solved. You can have a prime location, the best products, and a first-rate advertising program, but if your people lack a genuine customer service perspective, you won’t succeed. Competing at the higher end of the jewelry market requires a higher level of service. A Jeweler’s Credo is in order.