I was recently in downtown Philadelphia for a meeting, and I arrived a little early. I decided to walk a few blocks and look inside the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, because I was told it's in an incredible historic building. I had also heard that the Ritz-Carlton has great service.

When I walked up the short steps to the hotel, the doorman smiled broadly and gave me a warm greeting. I went in and looked around. As I was leaving, the same doorman said, "Sir, have you seen our new ballroom? It is magnificent. We are very proud of it." I was really amazed at his concern for my customer experience, even though I wasn't one!

I told him I had not seen it. He then gave his colleague doorman a subtle signal and took me to the ballroom for a tour. I left the hotel highly impressed with my customer experience, and while I wasn't even a customer, I will be in the future.

Why does Ritz-Carlton have such incredible customer service? What is its secret? The reality is, it doesn't have a secret. The hotel's customer service standards are posted on its website.

They are called the Gold Standards. If you can learn from what Ritz-Carlton does, you, too, can have exceptional service.

Here is the key: If you want extraordinary service in your organization, you have to create standards of behavior, simple written guidelines for how people should behave at work with customers.

For example, here are Ritz-Carlton's three steps of service:

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

How can you use these ideas in your business? Here are five ways:

1. Create standards.

Assemble a cross-functional group of people from each area of your business. The goal is to design behavioral standards for each area.

You should look at:

  1. How you communicate with customers in person, by phone, and by email
  2. How you communicate with everyone else on the team
  3. How you handle the issue when there is a problem

This, by the way, is how Ritz-Carlton can have 91 hotels worldwide and consistently deliver superb service.

2. Make sure everyone is at the table.

When you have the meeting to create standards, it is important to have people at the table from each functional area.

Why? First, you get different perspectives and ideas. Second, you get much better buy-in because they are part of it. They get to contribute.

3. Make sure the standards meet one of these three criteria.

The standards must be measurable, tangible, or observable. For example, a standard can be that you always answer the phone by the third ring. (This is an example of a measurable standard.)

You will notice Ritz-Carlton's standards all meet one of the three criteria. Here is the key: You can't hold people accountable unless you have criteria.

Excellent service is not about attitude--it is about behavior. That's how world-class organizations like Disney and Zappos ensure super service every time.

4. Communicate the standards.

Once the standards are in writing and the team is happy with them, they need to be communicated to everyone in your organization through meetings and emails.

Make sure all managers meet with their teams to talk about them. Explain why behavioral standards are being rolled out and the positive impact it will have on everyone and the business.

5. Design incentives and rewards.

You need to reward people for meeting and exceeding the standards. What incentives can you put in place?

Compliments, small rewards such as gift cards, and public company recognition can all go a long way. Long term, raises and performance reviews can reinforce the standards.

In addition to rewards, you also have to design consequences for when people don't meet the standards. These could include verbal feedback from their manager and formal discipline such as being written up, probation, or termination.

I recommend managers spend much more time focusing on the positive reinforcement.

Your business can be the Ritz-Carlton of your industry. If so, you will drive increased revenue, increase profit, improve employee morale, and have a workplace where everyone is winning. Who after all doesn't want to be the Gold Standard?