It’s an honor and a privilege to bring you some thoughts from bestselling author Dr. Joseph Michelli (author of The Starbucks Experience) on using distinctive service as a strategic competitive advantage. Enough of me… here’s Joseph.
We all know businesses that at one time dominated an industry. Whether it was a company like Polaroid which kept a strangle hold on instantly available pictures or Ford Motor Company with its early market prominence, many great businesses ultimately have struggled to maintain their relevance to the customer.
As Mike shared with you in an earlier blog post, he and I attended an NYU/Ritz-Carlton Leadership Training course together. That program, along with an additional year of access to leadership at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, reinforced for me the importance of maintaining a constant focus on the changing wants of the customer.
In my just released book, The New Gold Standard – 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, I address this issue of relevance through a business principle I termed “Define and Refine.”
Much of the historic success of The Ritz-Carlton can be linked to its well-defined service culture complete with a compact and operational mission statement, a credo card carried by all employees, and daily line-ups reinforcing corporate values for every staff member. Given this tightly defined culture and iconic business status, brand relevance became a major challenge for The Ritz-Carlton.
While The Ritz-Carlton thrived in a world of “old money” by creating very formal and elegant hotels, the company found itself challenged to continue to serve its primary and traditional guest while appealing to a changing demographic of luxury traveler. By spending a considerable amount of time and formal study of the new and emerging markets of affluent consumers and by asking and listening to its customer base, leadership at the hotel chain strategically changed the physical environment of their hotels, sought distribution of their properties in world business hubs, and even modified the way service is delivered in their hotels. A number of leaders at the hotel level resisted these changes – citing that nothing was broken at the hotels that needed to be repaired. While senior leadership agreed with that assessment, those leaders were steadfast in their willingness to take the risk of excellence. In essence, a risk of improving what you do well to serve the changing needs of your customer base.
By the time Polaroid shifted its focus from their traditional technology, they found themselves playing catch-up with other leaders in the digital photography space. Ritz-Carlton did not want to find itself in that position. I wonder if you will take a few moments to assess what aspects of your business are doing well now, but may require additional study of consumer trends to allow you to position your product or services in a way that assures future relevance.
About the author:
Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., is an author, internationally sought-after speaker, and business consultant who has been described as “catching what is right in the world and playfully sparking people and businesses to grow toward the extraordinary.” In addition to writing best-selling books about enduring business principles, Dr. Michelli hosted an award-winning daily radio program in Colorado Springs, Colorado for over a decade.