Unforgettable Experiences: Poignant Lessons on Authentic Care

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has long been synonymous with outstanding customer service and unforgettable experiences.

Here’s a touching example of a memorable experience from my book.

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Laura Gutierrez, a Ritz-Carlton HR Director, learned about 13-year-old Natalie’s battle with cancer from Natalie’s eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lewis.

In response, the Ritz-Carlton team sprang into action, arranging a prom for Natalie and her friends to be held in their hotel’s ballroom – complete with audiovisual, IT, and security.

Among other things, the Ritz-Carlton team:

  • Decorated the ballroom with pin lights and provided a dance floor
  • Assembled a PowerPoint presentation featuring pictures of Natalie and her friends
  • Provided a Prince Charming to escort Natalie down the red carpet to her favorite song, “Sweet Escape.”

Natalie’s joy was unmistakable throughout the night as she savored every dance and enjoyed her favorite foods. The celebration was so successful that the attendees didn’t want the night to end. Natalie’s father expressed that the Ritz-Carlton staff were like family. Natalie’s mother praised their kindness and caring hearts.

Sadly, Natalie passed away shortly after that special night. Still, the Ritz-Carlton team continued to honor her memory by celebrating what would have been her 14th birthday, complete with the cake she described to Laura the night before her death. Laura also maintained contact with Natalie’s parents.

So what can we learn from Natalie’s experience? Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Actively listen to customers to uncover ways to create unforgettable experiences.
  • Take initiative and collaborate in the service of others.
  • Personalize experiences to suit the individual needs and preferences of customers, colleagues, and community members.
  • Don’t wait to make a difference for someone. We may not have as much time as we think we do.

Skeptics might conclude that most businesses don’t have time to create Ritz-Carlton “over the top” customer experiences. I respond with a question,

What can you do for the next customer (and the customer after that) to create memories – in the time you have?

To learn more about creating memorable experiences, please contact me at josephmichelli.com/contact.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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