What Siri can Teach Originators

As we near the end of year, the topic of how to “wow” the customer is on the front burner for senior managers who want to win the battle of market share. It is clear that in an era of fickle customers, the old gifts of magnets and calendars don’t have the impact they used to have. Where can we learn what works to generate repeat business? I think Apple is a great place to start. But the surprising thing is that Apple didn’t develop excellent service standards. They learned from Ritz-Carlton. As Steve Jobs once said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

What did Apple learn from Ritz-Carlton? A great book by Carmine Gallo, The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty, details five Ritz sales strategies Apple borrowed when dealing with consumers. They are:

1. Approach with a warm welcome. The first step is to offer a warm welcome. This is accomplished by friendly people with big smiles. A warm greeting makes people feel appreciated, valued and happy.

2. Anticipate unexpressed needs. Legendary service is about surprise and delight. In a class called “Radar On — Antenna Up,” Ritz teaches its employees how to handle difficult scenarios. While not every issue can be anticipated, enough of them are fairly standard and employees can learn and practice their responses.

3. End with a fond farewell. Every contact with the customer is important, but the last contact is especially critical and is what the customer remembers most. The fond farewell as Ritz calls it, is always about a personal goodbye that invites customers to come back.

4. Own the relationship. Ritz teaches its employees that even if the customer has asked a question that is not their direct responsibility, they are urged to go the extra mile and own the relationship.

5. Reset internal clocks. If customers are forced to wait longer than expected, employees are taught to reset their internal clocks by distraction. The distraction could be a complimentary appetizer or showing new features on their laptop.

All five are key drivers of their success, but that isn’t where it starts for Ritz-Carlton. According to Diana Oreck, head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, two hiring tactics make the difference:

1. Screening for employees who match the company’s customer service approach using a behavioral-based interviewing process.

2.Spending a lot of time on new hire orientation. Ritz Carlton feels that the new employee is making a very big decision when they join the company and they want to convey to the new employee an emotional experience up-front that will make them a raving fan of the company. They believe the employee needs to be wowed before a customer will be become a fan.

As always, Apple is smart to follow Ritz-Carlton. Shouldn’t the mortgage banking industry follow suit? It is time to re-examine your hiring and on-boarding processes.