Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze

After this popped up as a recommended title to purchase and I enjoyed the book from Conrad Hilton so much, I thought that this would be another enjoyable and insightful title to add to my library. I was certainly impressed. Not only was the content excellent but the authenticity just exuded the author’s words and narrations. This book was fantastic and most definitely one I’d strongly recommend. There were many many key points that I believe translate well not only to the service or hospitality industry but to all areas where relationships are important — so life in general.

My name is fairly easy, it sounds just like it looks. Occasionally though, people do mess it up. I make it a point of emphasis to get the names of others correct when I’m speaking to them and absolutely when I’m writing to them.

The author emphasized that there is nothing sweeter than the sound of one’s own name. But he said if the name is too hard to pronounce it’s better not to try than to end up getting it wrong.

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This is absolutely crazy to me. People will only wait for 20 seconds?? Wow. This is just one reason why it’s essential that companies continue to test and retest the data.

When Horst started in the hotel business, their studies showed people were willing to wait to check in for up to 4 minutes. People today are more impatient and Horst says people will only wait 20 seconds.

Every interaction matters. That’s the way that I strive to live. I don’t always do that effectively or as well as I would like to, but it’s important to be aware of. Learning and continued self growth is essential and I know that I can always become better. I believe authenticity and genuineness should exude everything that we do; every interaction from start to finish matters.

Providing great customer service:

First, authentic and genuine interactions, show genuine and interest when seeing someone. With the help of JD Power, Horst understood through the analyzation of hundreds of thousands of comment cards, that if a customer’s first four contacts go well, there will be virtually no complaints thereafter.
The second step is to comply with the customer’s wishes. We must be patient as sometimes the customer cannot always easily or clearly express what they need.
The final part is saying goodbye and thanking them. We must express our gratitude voluntarily and show that we like the customer.
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Calling people up to their value and higher identity, I love this. Again, every single interaction matters. I’ve been taught out of saying “hey” and have usually done pretty well now. Everyone is a sir or a miss or a ma’am.

He trained all people to greet guests by saying “good morning sir or good morning ma’am” and never to say “hi guys” or “what’s up” and then to always say, “certainly or my pleasure, I’m happy to help” rather than just “okay”

It’s simple, isn’t it? I would think that most people should know this already. So why then aren’t more businesses more successful and sustainable?

If we want to succeed as a business, we must:

1. Keep the customer
2. Get new customers
3. Get customers to spend as much as possible without sabotaging number 1
4. In all of the above keep working towards more and more efficiency

These are all so important. The hardest for me is the first one, I have a tendency to seek to make the other person comfortable. Yet, making light of the situation expresses to the other person that they are not that important to me and that’s never what I want to express or communicate to someone. Number 2 is so necessary. This always needs to happen, same with number 3, I love this. The 7th is essential for many people, I have been practicing just listening and listening and listening, usually if people want feedback or your thoughts, they’ll ask for them so I just listen in silence and show that I’m listening attentively.

Key tactics of the problem solving course that he instituted for all Ritz Carlton employees:

1. Never try to laugh it off or crack a joke no matter how ridiculous it sounds to you. Guard every facial expression, this is dead serious to the person in front of you.
2. If you get a complaint, immediately say, “I’m so sorry.” It doesn’t matter if you didn’t cause the problem, in that moment you are the face of the organization and you speak on their behalf.
3. Never say they, say I. Take ownership.
4. Ask for forgiveness, go ahead and say the words, “please forgive me.”
5. Don’t appeal to the policy manual, they couldn’t care less.
6. Don’t try to parade your expertise, the person doesn’t care. They want someone to feel their angst and validate it.
7. Don’t assume that the complainer wants something, most often they just want to be heard.
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Again, it seems obvious, doesn’t it? Why do so many companies lose great highly valued customers then? They might feel entitled and think they would never leave. They might think that the customer wouldn’t notice a cheaper material on the shampoo bottle. They might think that a minute typo on the ingredients list should not stall production. Horst shares that each employee was allowed up to $2000 per customer to provide them the best service. I love that approach. There is nothing that we shouldn’t be willing to do for our customers.

3 ways that companies lose customers:

1. Start to cut back on the promise of your brand.
2. You start to get careless. It’s easy to stop viewing things through the eyes of the customer. While on a plane they may notice a coffee stain on the seat back tray and wonder how recently the engines have been maintained if they can overlook a fairly obvious stain.
3. You start to become arrogant.

The author shared that they had daily meetings and would cover one of these standards each day, continuing to emphasize a different one for each day of the month. I love that idea and the focus on what truly matters. As the author centered around, “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” I love numbers 7 and 8, they’re probably the most vital in my personal life. Everyone at the office I started working at has commented that my desk is too clean; it’s always spotless and clear of items. The customer is what pays the bills, everything must stop when they need something from you. The tenth is also one of the ones that I value most highly, it is imperative that everyone is resourceful and willing to get the job done, period. I love the closing standard, “be gracious towards guests and each other.” Wow. Love it. Believe it. Need it. It’s so perfect and just exactly what needs to happen all the time. Each and every day is the greatest blessing that we could possibly have and I believe that we should all live as though it is.

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The 24 service standards:

1. The Canon States the Purpose
2. The Zeitgeist is Known, Owned and Energized by All
3. The Service Processes is Follow for All Guest Interactions
4. We Assist each other, Stepping Out of Our Primary Duties When Necessary
5. Answer the Telephone Within 3 Rings
6. Identify and IMMEDIATELY Correct Defaults
7. Ensure All Areas Are Immaculate
8. Always Acknowledge the Guest, Even If It Interrupts What You’re Doing
9. Safety and Security are Everyone’s Duty
10. We All Fix Defects — Don’t Assume Someone Else Will Do It
11. When a Guest Encounters Difficulty, Own The Problem, Apologize, And Find a Resolve Immediately
12. Escort Guest Until Comfortable with Directions OR Until They’re in Sight of Their Destination.
13. Always Give Guest Your COMPLETE attention and Focus.
14. Be Respectful of the Guests Privacy and Time.
15. Make Your Guest’s Experience Memorable and Unique
16. Adjust to Each Guest and Be Sensitive to Their Unique needs.
17. Attire and Personal Image are Appropriate
18. The Suggested Hours are Guidelines, Not Limitations, For Satisfying Guest Needs
19. We Are Empowered to Fulfill Guest Needs
20. We Are Knowledgeable About Our Product
21. Confidentiality is Paramount
22. Be Positive Both Inside and Out of the Restaurant.
23. All Forms of Communication Reflect the Restaurant.
24. Be Gracious Toward Guests AND EACH OTHER!

Amen. This is why selecting a GREAT team is important. A good team might not also want to be the best, but a GREAT team? They’re all in.

Great leaders hold great expectations which they will not compromise. This does not deter the followers. They may sigh sometimes and say it’s hard to please the leader but in their hearts, they know it’s worth the effort. In their hearts, they too want to be the best.

This is fantastic and exactly the way that I would have responded had I been in this position. It’s all about caring for people, period. Jesus set the example and was the greatest leader ever.

While running a hotel in Pittsburgh, there was a union that was difficult to operate alongside, they played hardball. The first year near Christmas, they gave a turkey to each employee as was Hyatt policy. The union called it a bribe and went on strike. It was a very cold day so Horst got together with the kitchen managers and had everyone serve hot rolls and warm refreshments to the workers.

People sometimes criticize millennials for asking, “what’s in it for me?” But the author shares that this is nothing new, other generations wanted to know the same thing but just didn’t dare to ask. Millennials come right out with it, wanting to know what the point is.

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These four things cannot be overlooked, there is no reason that we cannot spend time on them. Spending time in the front end to develop and truly define a vision will save so much in the long run and improve effectiveness dramatically.

Leading effectively:

1. It starts with the vision, define it.
2. Make a conscious decision to achieve the vision.
3. Execute on the vision, make it a collaborative effort.
4. Maintain focus on the vision at all times.
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Yes, yes, and yes. Noted. Documented. Implemented. This is what matters most, period.

What should a leader measure?

1. Customer satisfaction and loyalty
2. Employee satisfaction
3. Leading indicators, wants to know the landscape 6 or 9 months down the road.

This is such a wonderful way to express passion; passion is more than just doing what we love. It’s one thing to create a great product, it’s another entirely to create a great product that people love as much as you do. Steve Jobs is someone who had an amazing and awe-inspiring understanding and practice of this fact.

Horst shares that we cannot just do what we love and expect the money to follow. “The more accurate truth is this, do what the customer loves and the money will follow.”

Wow. What a story and what an incredible testimony and example of God’s glory and power.

He shared that in the late 1990s he was diagnosed with cancer. He continued pushing forward after he was deemed cancer-free. In 2015, he spoke at Johns Hopkins University and mentioned he survived cancer while at dinner with several oncologists. They were curious what type of cancer and after he shared the type of cancer, they couldn’t believe he had that cancer. He was the only person they knew of who had survived that type of cancer. Horst attributes that to the prayers people prayed over his life.

This is a great self-reflection and I like how he took ownership of this. It’s one thing to go to church every now and then and another entirely to have a true relationship with God and our savior, Jesus Christ.

Horst believes he was a “Sunday Christian” before the onset of his cancer after which his business achievements no longer played a role and all Hope was found in Christ.

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This book was fantastic, inspiring, insightful, raw, honest, and focused. I learned a lot not only about Horst’s story and the journey of Ritz-Carlton, but also about best practices in customer interactions and communications. It’s never enough for me to just do “good enough” what does that even mean? I couldn’t tell you. What I can say though, is that I’m glad that I have more examples of what works well and what Horst has seen not work well. The revenue and the profit will always come if we provide something that the customer is willing to pay for and we do so in a way that honors the customer. For me, that’s the core principle of this whole book.

I gave this book a 4.5/5

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