What the Ritz-Carlton can teach a small business about world-class service 

 July 13, 2017

By  Pascal Depuhl

How to provide world-class service to your clients

As a small business owner, I am always reevaluating the priority and focus of my business. Last year I looked at all of the processes that go into creating a visual content production and automated many of them. In January of this year, I had the opportunity to watch “Design Disruptors,” and began thinking about at the UX or User Experience I create for my clients. This film challenged me to provide world-class service to my clients.

A few weeks ago, I was hired as a director of photography and first cameraman to cover the leadership conference of a medical company. The keynote speaker, Horst Schulze, talked all about providing world-class service. (You can read “What I learned from a wise hotelier.”) Even though his keynote speech was tailored to a medical company, his words focused the ideas and concepts, that are swirling around my mind for the last few months. That evening I ordered a book called “The new Gold Standard,” which describes the philosophy behind the world-class service at the Ritz-Carlton. 

Listening to Mr. Schulze passionately speak about the four priorities every excellent company focuses on, clarified much of where I had to begin, but I wanted to experience this service for myself. 

First, you have to experience world-class service

My family and I had found a super-affordable airfare to Aruba.When I saw that the island had a Ritz, I knew what I needed to do. A few hours after we’ve checked into our beach cabana, two of the gentlemen at the Ritz approach us:

Mr. Depuhl, we’d like to give you and your family a gift, courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton,” Jason says. He’s been the gentleman, who’s been providing us with excellent service at the Ritz. It’s been a few hours since we’ve settled into our Beach Cabana, here in Aruba and the ladies and gentlemen are more fabulous than I expected (and I came here with very high expectations).

The green and white stripped branded tote bag, Roel is holding in his hands isn’t something we expected. However, before letting you take a peek inside the bag with me, let me tell you how we got onto the beach.

My first email to the Ritz-Carlton ended up in world-class service After listening to Mr. Schulze and reading the book, I’ve tried to figure out how to adapt the concepts that the Ritz-Carlton has engrained into their culture, into my business.

I started emailing the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba 2 days before we left for Aruba. Actually, it ended up getting sent to the wrong email address. Turns out the email I had found belongs the former hotel manager. He hasn’t worked in Aruba since 2013. Nevertheless, I get an answer from Justine, the Executive Administrative Assistant, who’s already reserved a Beach Cabana for me. Normally a guest has to make the reservation the day of the visit. She’s also copied Milli, the front desk manager into this email since Justine won’t be on the property the day that we’re coming. 

Ritz-Carlton credo card

Saturday morning, we drive up to the Ritz-Carlton. I get to chat with Milli about some of the things I’ve learned about the brand, and she’s kind enough to give me one of the credo cards, that every employee at the Ritz-Carlton carries on their person. These cards begin with the credo, contain the 12 service values – one of which is reinforced daily in the morning lineup, the three steps of service and the motto of the Ritz-Carlton:

We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.

It’s not enough to read and hear about world-class service

OK. Back to the Beach Cabana in Aruba, with Jason standing by our day bed, green striped tote in hand. I’ve come to the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba, to experience their world-renowned service. Mind you we’re not staying here. We’re renting a Beach Cabana for the day. But you wouldn’t know it if you are observing the way the staff is treating us. Jason hands my wife and I the canvas bag. It contains (…)

[nextpage title=”check out what’s in the bag!”]

world-class gift
World-class gift from the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba

(…) two Ritz-Carlton beach towels, two sets of sunscreen products and most importantly a personal note to my family. 

We are blown away, since we didn’t expect a gift at all, not to mention one that cost more in the gift shop, than I had spent on renting the beach cabana. Every one of the ladies and gentlemen, who work here seems to have as much time as you need.

Be that Milli, the front desk supervisor, who takes the time to explain what makes the Ritz-Carlton best in class to my 15-year-old daughter or Luis, the Segway-riding waiter, who seems to have endless patience with my kids as they try to decide what to order. Be that Elix at the spa, who appears to flow like a gentle stream of water. Nobody rushes you or tells you they are too busy.

You can actually top world-class service

(I know, right? I didn’t think so either)

At the end of the day, my family has experienced one of the most laid-back days we’ve ever had. Little do we know, that Sybren our waiter, is going to blow everyone else out of the water. As we’re eating some of the best pasta, I’ve ever had in my life. If you’re ever in Aruba, try the mushroom ravioli at the Solanio, it’s to die for. I mention the granola bars I had eaten at the Ritz-Carlton Spa to Sybren and ask him if the restaurant’s kitchen makes them. “No,” he says “our pastry chefs do make those in-house, but that kitchen closed a few hours ago, and the chefs have gone home.” 

World-class service equals world-class snacks “I’d love to get my hands on that recipe,” I tell him. (Hey if you would have tried them, you’d want the recipe too.) Well to make a long story short, as Sybren brings us the bill, he hands me a hand written Ritz-Carlton card with a personal note that reads:

Dear Family Depuhl,

Happy that you had an enjoyable dinner in Solanio, and that you enjoyed our property.
Hoping that this wasn’t your last visit and that Aruba will always be an option for your celebrations and vacation.


Sybren Lewis

What follows are the ingredients for the granola bars and how to create them. My kids can’t believe it. We’ve spent dinner talking about what world-class service looks like. I’ve pointed out how the ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton have served us all day long. You can tell it comes from their heart and they enjoy making their guests feel comfortable and happy.

How do you apply world-class service to a small business?

I don’t rent hotel rooms. Nor do I run a restaurant. There’s no staff of ladies and gentlemen that are trained to give “the finest professional service.” So how do I create world-class service for my clients?

  1. Service at the Ritz-Carlton in genuine. The ladies and gentlemen want their guests to “always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance.”I can focus on being genuine in my care for my clients. How can you make sure you are genuine in your attitude toward your customers?
  2. The Ritz-Carlton designs every part of your experience to “enliven the senses, instill well-being, and fulfill the unexpressed wishes of their guests.” I can create an experience that makes my clients feel like all of their needs are being met. If you’ve been in business for a while, you have a pretty good idea what your customers need. What can you improve in the experience your customer has with your business?
  3. The Ritz-Carlton puts an incredibly high value on their staff.I can focus my attention on making sure that the freelancers I collaborate with, align with the quest of my company to bring world-class service to my clients. How to you make sure your staff grows in their personal and professional development?



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Pascal Depuhl

Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.