The Beautiful Art of Service with Horst Schulze

business, customer care, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, lessons, management, startup, success

Why keeping the customer happy is the not-so-secret key to success

When he was eleven-years-old, living in a small German town, he proudly told his parents he would someday own a hotel business. They were concerned, as that was not a respectable career choice at the time. At 14, he took a position at the closest luxury hotel, nearly 100 km away.

This isn’t a hotel we could ever stay at, his parents told him. This hotel is for very important people.

On his first day, the maitre d’ told young Horst Schulze, “Don’t come to work every day. Come to be excellent in what you are doing.”

At first, he was confused. What was so excellent about cleaning floors and washing dishes? Yet, after watching how the Very Important People who stayed at the hotel treated the maitre d’ as if he was the most important person in the room—he realized that excellence. And deciding to be excellent was the secret to his success.

Horst Schulze went on to co-found the Ritz Carlton and authored Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise. This interview is perfect for the startup entrepreneur, as Horst does a deep dive on his thought process behind creating a luxury brand that serves the customer better than the competition. Listen now.

People talk about service, but they have no process for it.

There are three subconscious desires that every customer wants when they make a purchase, regardless of industry, Horst says. First, you want the product to be defect free. Second, you want it when you want it, regardless of time limits. And, lastly, you want the people who give it to you to be nice to you.

Yet, it’s not just about following these three basic steps. You have to have a vision for where your company will be in ten years. You should make a detailed list of twenty ways you are going to deliver your product or service better than the competition—and then have everyone in your company, no matter how menial the role, focus on this list.

Don’t get carried away with what you think is right.

When plastic cards became the leading-edge replacement for physical keys, Horst became excited. After all, in his mind, it was a more secure system. Yet, at first, his customers hated the idea. Why, they asked, do I have to use cheap plastic as a key to enter my luxury hotel room?

Just because something is leading edge, it doesn’t mean you need to adopt it immediately. You, as the business owner, know the benefits. But, the customer needs time to adjust to new technology and changes. There’s value, he says, in being just behind the curve.

Horst offers practical advice for entrepreneurs who strive to be the best in their industry—regardless of industry.


Chris Graebe


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