To Transform Your Brand, Put Customers First

BOCA RATON, FL—For Bruce Himelstein, hospitality is his lifeblood. His first job was a bellman and one of his proudest moments was receiving a recognition award from Marriott International’s Bill Marriott while his father looked on. He is also proud of efforts to “blow the dust off the lion and crown” at the Ritz-Carlton. It is these moments that help to shape a meaningful hospitality career of more than 30 years. You don’t have this kind of longevity without adding a few rules to the playbook. Now, as a speaker and consultant for the BJH Group, Himelstein details his experiences to other businesses and reveals strategies used at luxury hotels to transform brands from the inside out.

“I pinch myself every day that my experience and body of work resonates across industries. It’s very gratifying,” said Himelstein. “I think eye contact and listening skills are a lost art. Be better than anyone at this and your customers will remember you. Also, you’ve got to set the example. Surround yourself with people that commit and let them do their jobs.”

Organizations tapping into his breadth of experience want to learn how to increase customer service and handle disruption. During his talks, he presents numerous examples he’s encountered throughout his career and scenarios that have a way of resonating with his audiences.

“The Ritz-Carlton is an iconic global brand that set the standard on customer service. I was just a steward of the culture and philosophy during my eight-year tenure,” he said. “The service DNA of the brand is iconic and one to benchmark. Our team was able to increase the relevance through communications, positioning for the next generation and reducing the formality.”

Customer service is a team sport. For hoteliers seeking to get everyone on board with putting the customer first, Himelstein believes the answer is an easy one. “It’s scary that more organizations struggle. The leadership sets the tone and each associate holds each other accountable to deliver,” he said. “There’s no wiggle room.”

Himelstein offers a couple of tips to help hoteliers make the shift right now:

Put customers first. “Customer service is one of the few things over which organizations have complete control. This is true again and again. You need to strive to get it right every time,” he said. “Providing better customer service than your competition raises the switching costs. Once you have provided an experience like no other, the customer is yours.”

Change the culture. “The way to win in any market is to make customer service the foundation of your brand. This transcends people,” he said. “The culture must be customer-centric, not an initiative that belongs to a person or department.”