Simple but crucial customer need: Ritz-Carlton, Nando’s, Tossed

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Recently, on her CX podcast, Human Duct Tape Show, Jeanne Bliss interviewed Horst Schulze – founder, Chairman & CEO of the Capella Hotel Group, and Co-founder & Former COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.

Horst shared very interesting things, from the time when he was founding Ritz-Carlton Hotel – which is now recognised by their outstanding customer-centric culture and the experience delivered to customers.

According to him, at the time, they realised there were three basic customer needs that needed to be fulfilled, and one of them was crucial, as it was the one that drove greatest satisfaction – they needed, as a company, to “be nice to customers”.

The interesting thing is that they didn’t stop there. They went to determine what “being nice to customers” meant. So they researched, and even consulted behavioural analysts.

No matter what you are doing, you look the customer in the eye and say: Good morning, how are you doing”. You don’t just say “Hi” as that is putting yourself at the same level. You want to lift your customer higher.

It made me think of two recent experiences I had. One in Nando’s (the famous chicken restaurant) and another one in Vital (from tossed a very healthy salad place).

At Nando’s (in Gatwick Airport) I approached the counter to order and was greeted with a “table number?”. The girl took my order and payment without looking at me once, and the only thing she said was “anything else?” and “twelve pounds, fifty pence, please!”.

Food arrived to the table in the hands of another visibly bored staff member, who put the plate down, took the table number and menu away, without saying a word. What if I wanted to order something else? I didn’t, because I no longer had table number or menu.

At Vital, things are completely different. I’m always greeted with “Hello sir, how are you today?” and whilst they prepare my salad they keep going “How has your day been so far?”. Always with a smile on their face, and clearly looking after you and paying attention.

This week I was about to get in when a homeless man approached me “Excuse me sir, could you buy me something to eat?”. “Sure, come on in, choose whatever you want, and I will pay for it”, I said. He came with me to the check-out, I paid and he thanked.

Two days later, I went to pick up my lunch. At the check-out the girl (funnily enough not the one I paid the previous time) said “The other day, you paid for that man’s lunch, right?”. I nodded. “Well done sir, today your lunch is on the house. Kindness generates kindness”, she said.

It’s going to be hard for me to return to Nando’s in Gatwick Airport, but I will definitely keep having 4 out of 5 meals (lunch during week) at Vital.

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