If you’re like me, you travel a lot. and you almost certainly have your own views of, and preferences among, the familiar roster of hotel brands, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton, but also at the high end Fairmont, Four Seasons, J.W. Marriott, and Ritz Carlton. All of the latter are without fail lovely “properties” (as the hospitality industry somewhat bloodlessly refers to its locations), but do any of the brands consistently stand out in your mind? For me, one does: Ritz Carlton.

Before going one paragraph further, we need a quick “get a grip” timeout.

The experience of staying at any one of these high end hotels is as pleasant, welcoming, and even luxurious as any time spent away from home can be. All are excellent at what they do. So when I identify Ritz Carlton as “standing out,” you could say I’m splitting hairs, and I couldn’t strenuously disagree. Perhaps more pointedly, I can’t remember the last time I chose where to stay on a trip; I go wherever the client wants me to be. But permit me to elaborate in any event; there’s a message coming.

The primary distinction I sense is consistency. A stay at any one of these hotels (again) can make you feel all your needs are attended to, all your questions answered knowledgeably and well, but at a Ritz Carlton, it’s always the case, and it happens seemingly without effort.

The more I reflected on this, the higher the degree of difficulty it seemed to require in my mind. Their website lists 80 hotels in 26 countries employing 38,000 people. How could an organization possibly deliver that degree of consistency across its global span?

I’d heard about the “Credo Card,” the plastic laminated mini-folder (about the size of a credit card) every Ritz Carlton employee supposedly carries, but it seemed almost too perfect to be true—a species of urban legend—so the other week as I was checking in at a Ritz Carlton, I had the presence of mind to ask the fellow manning the reception desk (“Jeffery”) if he had such a card. He immediately pulled out his wallet and produced it. He then printed off its contents from the Ritz Carlton’s website and handed the printout to me. Some urban legend.

So shall we take it as our text for today? We shall.

The card, actually called the “Gold Standards,” consists of The Credo, the Motto, the Three Steps of Services, Service Values (a dozen), The 6th Diamond, and the Employee Promise.

Here are the highlights:

The Credo

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.


At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.

Three Steps Of Service

  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

  • I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
  • I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  • I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests
  • […]
  • I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  • […]

The 6th Diamond*


Emotional Engagement


The Employee Promise

At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.

The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

*The “6th Diamond” is hard to describe verbally but easy to envision: It’s a diamond roughly divided horizontally into sixth’s, with “functional” the bottom sixth (this is the absolute bedrock, what’s required, but not something to focus on), “emotional engagement” the middle four-sixths occupying the bulk of the diamond (the core brand equity, and what Ritz Carlton people need to focus on, build, and reinforce every moment of the day), the “mystique” the pinnacle one-sixth, the ultimate benefit to the brand and to the client, but which can’t be conjured up without the solid five-sixth’s base beneath it.

A few of these stand out for me vis-a-vis Law Land, including “I own and immediately resolve [client] problems,” and “anticipatory service” “fulfill[ing] even the unexpressed needs of our [clients].”


I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time in Law Land when there’s been so much ink spilled on the topic of “client service,” virtually all of it falling into the two equally unappealing categories of self-serving blather about how our firm excels at it or observers mouthing tautological statements of the blisteringly obvious—either of which any properly self-aware 6-year-old would blush to utter.

But something in these “Gold Standards” of Ritz Carlton is clearly working. My hunch is that this is where their power lies:

  • They don’t hector or preach; they inspire
  • They don’t enumerate techniques; they identify the goal, and
  • They’re in that sense constitutional, not legislative.

Consider not the differences between their business and yours, consider the overriding goal: Exceptional client service. I know the company has even popularized its “credo” to the point of offering other firms training in how they do it, but I come back to the basic point: Something here is working.

They’re doing it with 38,000 people, most of them without the intellectual and sociocultural advantages of partners and associates in your firm, and they’re doing it consistently and worldwide.

With rare exceptions among firms here and there, we as an industry are doing, frankly, little to nothing of the sort. I don’t care how much lip service you pay to client excellence—and (alert the media) clients don’t either. By and large, it remains every partner, every associate, every staff member, trying to figure it out—and doing their honest-to-goodness best all the day long—for themselves. It can be exhausting.

Not to mention confusing and absurdly inconsistent for clients.

Don’t we owe our colleagues, not to mention our clients, a slightly more sophisticated and advanced approach?

Then again, maybe your firm doesn’t aspire to be Ritz Carlton.  There’s always the airport Hilton.

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