Leadership and standards of excellence – create and achieve customer service standards

The former head of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain once said, “Unless you have 100% customer satisfaction…you must improve.” He set out to find a road map to reach just that goal. The inspiring story will motivate you to raise the bar and find your road map to 100% success. As founding president and COO of Ritz-Carlton, Horst Schulze established a new standard of excellence in his industry. Horst revolutionized the hotel industry, creating one of the most recognizable international brands, forever altering the very nature of customer service by creating a culture of “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” A step in that process for the Ritz was winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

I recently met one of Horst’s top lieutenants and he told me that in 1986, when Ritz was named best in the industry he looked at the organization and said, “we were named the best, which is always questionable. But if we were the best, we had to be the best of a lousy lot, because we weren’t nearly perfect.”

Despite a desire to find areas of improvement, they had run out of ideas. Several main customers and quality organizations suggested the Baldrige criteria for guidance. Although hard to understand at first, they realized it could serve as a road map.

Congress established the Baldrige program to recognize United States organizations for their achievements in quality and performance and to raise awareness about the importance of excellence as a competitive edge. The Baldrige Award was envisioned as a standard of excellence that would help U.S. organizations achieve world-class quality. Winners advocate quality. They agree to educate and inform other companies and organizations on the benefits of using the Baldrige Award framework and criteria.

Ritz-Carlton started benchmarking several early Baldrige winners, including Motorola, to learn how they instituted quality improvement programs. The Ritz-Carlton plunged head first into a road map of Total Quality Management with astonishing results.

The Ritz-Carlton was the first hotel chain to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. In fact, they have now won the award twice – in 1992 and in 2000. The first Baldrige Award turned out to be good news and bad news. The feedback report received after winning the award suggested 75 areas for improvement.

You must have guessed by now, there is always room to improve. Horst first recognized this simple rule, set a stretch goal, and then went searching for the right road map to achieve the goal. You, too can follow this plan.

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