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Sloan and the Ritz Carlton Effect

September 10, 2011

This summer, Cynthia and Ryal accompanied me on a West Coast business trip. For three days, while I drove back and forth between San Diego and Los Angeles, they went to Disney Land and played on the beach. We decided to stay at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Nigel, in part because it was halfway between my two cities and, in part because of the quality associated with the Ritz name.

I was truly impressed with the entire guest service experience at the Ritz. It was as though they had anticipated every detail of our stay and ensured that each resource that we might next need would be in place when needed. Minor details, like sending up a child size Ritz Carlton bathrobe for Ryal made us feel like the staff cared about our child. Ostensibly opulent services like the beach butler made a day at the beach hassle-free for Cynthia, as staff members set up umbrellas and beach chairs, brought water, and even delivered pre-packaged lunches. With their help, she was able to stay on the beach most of the day and enjoy time with her 5 year old son, rather than wandering about trying to find food, water, and other basics.

I found the Ritz-Carlton to be a wonderful lesson in anticipatory service, which lessons I continually try to apply within our companies.

Sloan seems to have taken a lesson from the Ritz-Carlton playbook.

After paying the $10,000 EMBA program deposit, a new link within the ADMIT website, appropriately labelled “Next Steps” is activated. Next Steps is exactly that – a list of roughly a dozen tasks that the new student must complete prior to attending Orientation in Cambridge. Most of the tasks are required paperwork, such as submitting proof of immunization (to comply with Massachusetts State laws), proof of medical insurance, and so forth. Other tasks are biographical, such as submitting photos, filling out online profiles, and such. And one task requires the student to complete an online survey that details their living needs while on campus – parking permits, hotel rooms, and so forth.

On my survey, when asked about dietary restrictions, I had noted that I am a Crohns’ patient and as such, have a rather complex diet. The list of what I am and am not to eat is well beyond what I seem to be able to manage, thus I have a nutritionist who designs the diet and my wife helps me to find appropriate meal options. My normal routine is to stick to a few basic meals from which I rarely vary, however, when dining out or traveling, I often have to face the problem of finding things that I can eat.

Cynthia helps me when I am out with her. One of my colleagues, Barbara Simard, helps me when we are traveling or dining at business functions. I will even call Cynthia when I’m traveling alone to ask what I should choose from the menu in a new restaurant. It seems trivial, but with Crohns, making the wrong choice can  quickly make me ill and has the very real capacity to hospitalize me.

This morning, I received an email from Renee Benjamin at the MIT EMBA program, asking if we might speak by phone so that she could better understand my diet. When we connected later, she explained that she had read on my survey that I had Crohns’ and had spent time researching the disease to better understand my dietary needs. She was very sweet, very helpful, and genuinely concerned about my diet. She explained at one point that it is very important that every EMBA student have meals that meet their individual needs so that they have the energy to support their studies. Her concern was to ensure that I ate properly throughout the program. Wow, talk about anticipating the client’s needs!

Renee spent 30-45 minutes reviewing menu options for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners – both as might be served on-campus during the program, as well as ordered for me at restaurants off-campus. Every imaginable food that I might eat throughout the day was covered, together with options to help vary the menu to ensure that I didn’t “grow bored with the selections…” Her attention to detail was literally as good as what one might expect from a high-end resort. Nothing left to chance, every question asked, with a constant focus on ensuring that I enjoyed the best possible dining experience while attending the program.

I must say that I am already quite impressed with what Jonathan Lehrich is building at MIT.


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