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A Look into Total Quality Management


Total Quality Management

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A Look into how the Ritz Carlton Hotel Chain uses Total Quality Management to Address Quality of Service Issues

Company Background

Level of Service Required for World Class Service

Total Quality Management in a Service Environment

Human Resource Role in Service TQM

The Ritz Carlton’s hotels are focused on a rather narrow target market that expects world class facilities as well as world class service by the hotels staff. While constructing world class facilities is one matter, maintain a staff that consistently can provide world class service is no easy endeavor. To meet this challenge the Ritz Carlton organization has implemented many of the concepts embodied in the Total Quality Management body of research. They provide their staff both the training and the resources that empower them to maintain quality standards on the spot without having to navigate layers of organizational bureaucracy. This allows the hotel staff the means to provide the hotels clients with not only world class service but they also have systems in place to ensure this level of service is maintained consistently throughout the entire network of hotels. This paper examines some of the quality issues that arise in service management in the luxury hotel industry and how the Ritz Carlton uses Total Quality Management practices to overcome these challenges.

Company Background

The Ritz Carlton is a high end hotel chain that spans the globe and operates in over twenty four different countries in over seventy different locations. Their staff consists of rough forty thousand employees and operates as a completely independent division of the Marriott International parent organization. There hotels are often positioned in conjunction with other amenities such as spa treatments, golf facilities, as well as luxury condominiums. Their mission, vision, and operational metrics all include providing their customers the highest quality service in the industry. Furthermore, the target markets expectations for what top quality service might entail is extremely high compared to other target markets. Since there were not any ready-made industry benchmarks available to the Ritz Carlton they had to design their own and in doing so they based much of their total quality management (TQM) ideas (Partlow, 1993).

Level of Service Required for World Class Service

One of the human resource slogans at the Ritz Carlton is that “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” which symbolizes much of the outlook that the business expects its employees to exhibit themselves as well as the level of respect that they show their customers. The concept of a gentleman generally is perceived as someone who is of a superior class or someone who possesses refined manners and politeness. Hence, they are expected to convey a high standard of behavior than that could be expected of the average citizen or some other concept of a layman. If you could image the total of all the types of behaviors that would represent the total public were compiled, a gentleman, or a lady, would represent the top tier of whatever these collective behaviors might deem the most desirable. Although the concept certainly isn’t well defined, it does give some indication of how the organization expects their employees to view themselves and treat the guests.

Furthermore the concept provides insights to the types of people that are members of the target market that the Ritz Carlton caters too. The target market consists of professionals and wealthy individuals who are adapted to a high level of service that is far beyond what an average organization could provide on a consistent basis. To maintain this level of service the employees must act as professionals and behave appropriately at all times. They must be polite and respectful and cannot show any level of frustration whatsoever or express any other emotion that could be perceived as undesirable from a customer’s perspective. To achieve this level of professionalism it is necessary something of an actor or wear an exterior mask to hide any negative emotional responses and project a very calm and polite exterior in order to maintain professional standards.

The customers’ perceptions of the performance of the hotel will determine their loyalty of the customers to the individual hotel and the brand in general. Therefore the performance objectives, quality, speed, and dependability, are going to represent some portion of the basis by which the customers form their opinions. Therefore, the whole of the human capital that the hotel employs will serve as the first line of defense in terms of the constructing the customers perceptions of service. Thus if the staff at the Ritz Carlton can meet the performance objectives, which are set at a higher bar than most of the industry, then they will likely increase customer loyalty. This was recognized to be the problem that management addressed in the implementation of a TQM approach to customer service (Zairi, 1995).

One story about the quality of service that the Ritz Carlton can uphold using their TQM strategies was provided by a female business traveler who missed a flight in Chicago and as a result arrived at a Ritz Carlton with little time to spare before having to rush to a business meeting (Robinson, 2008). The customer was complaining about the events to the Ritz Carlton employee who escorted her and her belongings to her room. The employee made several offers to help her cope with her bad day such as booking a spa visit or massage for her, however the customer didn’t have the time for such luxuries. The employee was dedicated to finding a way to reduce the customers stress and made a last effort to help her by providing a complimentary scented candle to the customer. This simple act made a big impression on the customer. As a result, the customer praised the employee at the front desk who consequently entered the customers experience into their global database. Now when the customer returns to any Ritz Carlton location around the world she is always greeted by a scented candle. Therefore not only did the service by the one individual go above and beyond normal expectations but now they repeat that experience for the customer in all of her subsequent trips.

Not only does this example serve as a testament to the level of quality that the Ritz Carlton organization can provide using a TQM-based strategy, but it also can provide insights to the speed of service as well as the dependability of service. The employee who escorted the customer to her room did not have to stop and ask permission from a manager to provide the complimentary candle; they were empowered as well as motivated to make these decisions by themselves and on the fly. If the employee had to pause at any time during their service to the customer then the opportunity to excel would have been lost. However, since the employee was able to identify an opportunity and take advantage of it on the spot then this made a long lasting impression on the customer and made her experience a memorable one. Employee empowerment ideas in order to deal with quality issues are one of the fundamental notions of the TQM strategies in other industries such as in manufacturing (Thamizhmanii, 2010). Those who are closest to the problem are nearly always the ones who can appreciate the nuances the best.

As if this instance of superior service was not quite enough, the Ritz Carlton staff was able to collect such data about the customer’s experience so that it could repeat this experience at any Ritz Carlton location worldwide. As previously mentioned, now when the customer visits a Ritz Carlton at any location a crossed the globe she is always greeted with a candle at the desk. Therefore not only did the employee provide superior service but the service she experienced in which she provided positive feedback for was entered into the customer database and replicated for future visits. Thus the Ritz Carlton creates customized service for each customers based on the individual customer profiles they construct. This is the ideal model of service dependability. Since the period in which Ritz Carlton developed such an approach another version of it has also been introduced into the parent company, Hilton Hotels as well (Maxwell & Lyle, 2002).

Total Quality Management in a Service Environment

Providing a defect free experience is a rather ambitious goal especially when humans are involved. However, at the same time the mere pursuit of such a goal can serve as a good strategy in terms of devising a strategy of total quality improvement. For example, having zero defects may be somewhat unpractical to achieve in reality but by pursuing such a goal this challenges employees on all levels to improve their individual and collective performances. When a defect arises it should be subsequently subject to some form of analysis, such as a root cause analysis, that is then used to improve future performances. It has been found by researchers that TQM practices are positively correlated with customer satisfaction and service quality in many service organizations (Ooi, et al., 2011).

A zero defect concept represents a common theme of many total quality management initiatives. It has become especially common in the luxury hotel industry to further organizational goals via an educational, empowering and positively rewarding relationship that is shared by staff management with their subordinates (Baldacchino, 1999). Empowering employees is one of the key factors that make this whole process more feasible. If employees are empowered then the presence of a defect or the possibility of a future defect can be corrected at the time in which it is first recognized. Therefore even if some kind of defect is present at any time during the time of service, then it can be quickly mitigated so that the customer isn’t significantly obstructed by the problem. For example, the Ritz Carlton policy is that employees have the ability to make any decision on the spot that requires any sum less than two thousand dollars in corporate funding to rectify any problems that could detract from the customers’ service experience using their best judgment.

Education is another critical component in regards to applying TQM principles to attempt to achieve a zero defect service customer service. At the Ritz Carlton employee education is provided on a daily basis and the educational content is reinforced by repetition. The employees have daily meetings in which some portion of the organizational goals is covered as well as related to current examples of employee performance. If some defect should occur then it would undoubtedly be the focus of one of these meetings and would be provided as an example in which to be studied so that the problem can serve as an example for future occurrences. Through empowerment and education the Ritz Carlton can make sure that their goal of total customer loyalty is achieved. Even if there is a defect that occurs, the Ritz Carlton can also go to great lengths to correct this impact upon the customers’ perceptions by rectifying it by providing discounts or additional services. Other organizations have used the TQM services insights to form organizational knowledge bases that can easily be shared as well (Coluricio, 2009).

Human Resource Role in Service TQM

The human resources department at the Ritz Carlton has a unique approach to bringing on new staff members. First of all, the case states that they do not “hire” employees. Instead they “select” employees based on the top talent that applies for employment with the firm. Additionally, the Ritz Carlton generally attracts some of the top talent in the industry because of the fact that they are one of the major competitors in the industry. Management has constructed an ideal candidate profile based on some of the best practices that they benchmarked that were found in various other industries. To maintain a level of objectivity in the hiring process, the Ritz Carlton lets a third-party partner select the ideal employee based on the ideal employee profile that they have submitted for the position. As a result of this strategy the organization has reported a decrease in employee turnover which is an important factor for being able to provide a high level of service and maintain quality standards.

Furthermore, human resources facilitate what they refer to as the daily “Lineup.” In this daily training program, HR will engage in some form of ongoing training based on current issues that have been identified in the organization. In these brief daily sessions the employees will discuss current developments, lessons learned, and reinforcement of the organizations standard operating practices. This ensures that employees communicate with each other on a daily basis and allows them the opportunity to share their experiences so that they can also learn from one another. In addition to the perpetual daily training programs, employees are also often required to undergo annual certifications to ensure that they have the timely required knowledge of the current organizational practices so that they can provide the high levels of service that the Ritz Carlton demands.


This paper looked at how TQM is applied to service oriented organizations such as the Ritz Carlton to achieve high standards in regards to other competitors in the same industry. Since the Ritz Carlton is one of the highest rated service providers in their industry and they have designed there service organization around TQM practices then this seemed like an ideal choice. This strategy has produced many quality of service awards and achievements for the Ritz Carlton. However, since the organization is serviced based, they had to make the TQM strategy fit with their organizational goals.

One way that the Ritz Carlton implemented a total quality approach is through empowering their employees. This empowerment comes from continually training their employees and sharing lessons learned. However, they also place considerable effort into employee selection before the training programs begin to ensure that employees can as assimilate into the Ritz Carlton culture. Once an employee graduates from their initial training however they are given a considerable amount of leeway to make decisions on their own; a concept that is heavily embedded in TQM management philosophies.

Works Cited

Baldacchino, G., 1999. Total quality management in a luxury hotel: A critique of practice. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 14(1), pp. 65-78.

Coluricio, M., 2009. TQM: a knowledge enabler?. TQM Journal, 21(3), pp. 236-248.

Maxwell, G. & Lyle, G., 2002. Strategic HRM and Business Performance in the Hilton Group. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 14(5), pp. 251-252.

Ooi, K., Lin, B., Tan, B. & Chong, A., 2011. Are TQM practices supporting customer satisfaction and service quality?. The Journal of Service Marketing, 25(6), pp. 410-419.

Partlow, C., 1993. How Ritz-Carlton applies “TQM.” Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 34(4), pp. 16-16.

Robinson, J., 2008. How The Ritz-Carlton Manages the Mystique. [Online]

Available at: [Accessed 14 December 2011].

Thamizhmanii, S., 2010. A review on an employee empowerment in TQM practice. Journal of achievements in materials and manufacturing engineering, 39(2), p. 204.

Zairi, M., 1995. Leadership in TQM implementation: Some case examples. American Journal of Management Development, 1(1), pp. 37-44.

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