Because Some Guests Asked For It: The Story of The Ritz-Carlton Mobile App

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I spent the past weekend at The Ritz-Carlton Naples Resort, in part to celebrate my wife’s birthday, and in part to get a first look at their new mobile app that launched today.

First, the app. It does everything you’d expect it to do and a bit more. From fresh towels or a shoeshine in your room to a request for chicken fingers by the pool, the app takes care of it all. With one touch, it’s very, very easy. My favorite part was pre-check-in and mobile check out, allowing me to simply show up and get my key, and walk out of the hotel with no waiting. No muss, no fuss. Worked exceptionally well, as you’d expect.

Even better, the connection to back-of-house is seamless. The Ritz-Carlton took over a year to design it to make sure that when you ordered a cheeseburger in Beijing, a towel in Naples, or a shoe-shine in Beverly Hills, the app would correctly talk to the specific hotel you were in, every single time. This is big, when you consider that different countries have different rules, say for e-folio checkouts, and the like. So they made sure it was perfect before launching it, as you’d expect the The Ritz-Carlton to do.

But here’s where it gets interesting – The Ritz-Carlton practically invented hotel customer service, right? High-touchpoint all the way, people at every corner waiting to personally help you – No less than five people smile at you as you walk from your room to the lobby, they all remember your name, they all ask how you’re doing, and any request, from the simplest to the hardest, is handled in real-time, and usually within minutes. So why an app?

To put it another way, why would such a high-touchpoint company, one that invests so heavily on their employees, their “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” spend a year perfecting and implementing a brand-wide app, that some could say takes away some of that personal touch for which The Ritz Carlton is famous?

Simple: Some guests asked for it. It doesn’t matter what percentage – Because chances are, it’s not a super-high percentage. But some did. And The Ritz-Carlton knows that happy guests return, happy guests bring friends, and happy guests increase revenue.

Where’s the downside? Even if ten percent of their guests use the app, and 90% still prefer someone meeting their car curbside, it’s still a happy 10% that gets their check-in automatically, and orders their drinks at the pool via the app. And that makes that ten percent happy, and doesn’t interfere with the other ninety percent. And that ten percent tells others, and that number increases, along with the bottom line revenue of the hotel. And that’s smart.

At the end of the day, it’s all your customers that need to feel like they matter, not just a certain percentage. The Ritz-Carlton app is a prime example of a company understanding and reacting to that.

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