If you watched the recent series on BBC2, Inside Claridge’s, you may have asked yourself how they can possibly charge several thousand pounds for one night of accommodation. The Claridge’s brand has been built over many years on a philosophy of putting the guest first and providing exceptional service.
This was exemplified by the head of housekeeping who kept detailed records, including photographic evidence, of exactly how guests liked their rooms and other aspects of their stay. This included precisely how the bed should be made – blankets or duvets, softness of mattress or pillow – even preferences for the position of furniture.
If you have not watched the programme, I would urge you to do so, as there are at least three valuable lessons to be learned for any service provider.
First, exceptional service demands attention to detail, thorough knowledge of your clients and access to this information. In helping firms to develop their customer relationship systems, it is rare that we come across well-kept client information. Contact names are not often recorded completely or accurately, never mind information on family circumstances or business plans. What information do you need to anticipate the needs of your clients and provide exceptional service?
Second, the overall service experience is created by everyone in the team. The Claridge’s housekeeper is probably rarely seen by the guest, and yet she is undoubtedly worth her weight in gold. Lawyers often forget that clients may encounter many members of staff before they eventually meet their solicitor. Are all your staff aware of the standards of service expected at your firm? Are standards monitored and do staff receive training accordingly?
Third, a brand built on exceptional service commands a premium. In this case, Claridge’s is charging 10 times that of its rivals in London and yet it clearly enjoys fantastic loyalty from its guests.
When Steve Jobs started opening Apple stores in 2001, not only was the physical environment important, but so was the customer experience. At a retreat with the team, then Apple retail chief Ron Johnson asked everyone to describe the best customer experience that they had received. Most mentioned the Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton hotel, so Johnson sent his first five store managers through the Ritz-Carlton training programme and came up with the idea of replicating that level of experience.
Too often law firms simply compare themselves with other legal professionals. But there is much to be learned from other industries and, as was the case with the Apple stores, a fresh perspective can give you that differentiating edge over the competition. Once you start to compete on the basis of price alone, it can only go one way. Whilst not everyone can be Claridge’s or Apple, they are fine brands to emulate if your strategy is based on service excellence.
Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas