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Credit: GRAPHIC BY DENISE BAKER

 

When Lance Sada attended an event at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, he expected the royal treatment. What he didn’t expect was the staff’s near-miraculous attention to each guest’s personal details.

It started the first time he walked through the lobby. “I passed a doorman who I’d hardly noticed before, and he greeted me with a, ‘Welcome back, Mr. Sada,’” says the owner of A Clear Choice Pool and Spa Service in Sun City, Calif. “Every single doorman greeted me by name — I still have no idea how they did that.”

That recognition from the doorman was just the tip of the iceberg.

Sada was at the hotel to attend a function with fellow chapter members of the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association. As he and his colleagues sat down to a meal, he noticed that his salad contained an ingredient he was allergic to. But when Sada called a member of the wait staff aside to point out his concern, he learned that personalized food selections — far from being an inconvenience — were a point of pride for the hotel.

“They asked what other food I’d prefer, and I explained to them what my allergies were,” he says. The kitchen staff had appropriate alternatives on hand, and gladly made the necessary substitutions — not only at that meal, but at all the others Sada attended during his stay.

“Even though I wasn’t sitting in the same spot at other meals, the staff still knew who I was, and there’d be a special person who’d walk over to me and hand me my entrée,” Sada says.

This level of personal meal service would have been distinctive on its own, but what really caught Sada off-guard was the fact that the hotel replicated it at other locations, months down the line. “When I was making an individual reservation, the staff verified all those details again, like they’d kept them in a database,” he says. Thus, he enjoyed the same first-name-basis service even in another city.

Though a pool service business might not seem to have much in common with a luxury hotel chain, Sada says he’s noticed some strong parallels between the Ritz’s approach to service and his own. “I make it a priority to get to know every customer on a first-name basis,” he says. Though he notes that these sorts of personal connections have always been central to his business, he also adds that his experiences at the Ritz drove home the importance of such details, and demonstrated the strength of the memories they can build for a customer.

Beyond learning customers’ names, though, Sada says he also makes a point of finding out which of his clients have large families, for instance, or have water-loving pets, or do a lot of entertaining around the pool. Not only does that strengthen the relationship, it also allows him to ask questions about upcoming pool parties, or other events that might require an adjusted service regimen; that in turn allows his company to avoid potential mishaps by providing tailored treatment. In the end, though, what impressed Sada most about the Ritz was the staff’s dedication to treating every guest as an individual with unique needs and wants. And it’s that kind of attention to detail, he says, that creates deep, long-lasting customer loyalty.

“When you know every one of your customers by name, those relationships are much harder for a competitor to break,” he says. “It’s always preferable to be treated with respect by quality people.”