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Service Excellence is all about the interactions, not the transactions.

An interview with Wavelength’s SpeakersHub Sue Stephenson

“A great organisational culture is a way of thinking, behaving and working that’s rooted in interactions between teams, management and external stakeholders. It’s about embedding the core values into every touch point.”

Sue Stephenson, a former board level executive for luxury hotel chain The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, regular speaker at Wavelength Connect events and one of Wavelength SpeakersHub most sought-after speakers, knows first-hand that getting the building blocks of service excellence in place are essential to delivering the best possible customer experience.

“An organisation with an embedded culture of service excellence is driven by the three Ps – Purpose, Process and Passion,” explains Sue “these are the fundamental principles that apply to the development of a great culture.”


“I describe purpose as a feeling of wanting to be part of something that’s bigger than you,” she says “good leaders know how to instil that feeling into the workplace, that spirit of all being in this together.”

Organisations are experiencing a fundamental shift in the battle for talent. Employees are looking for more from an employer, they want to work for brands that they feel aligned with and that meet their own values and give them a sense of pride. A compelling purpose that permeates the organisation is vital to recruiting and retaining the best staff.

At Ritz-Carlton many of the roles staff undertake are not seen as glamourous – washing up, servicing rooms, the sector is highly manually intense yet every member of staff in the business understands and is engaged with the knowledge that they share the ability to deliver great service. Every single member of staff plays an important part in the overall sense of experience the customer has of the brand.

Ritz-Carlton has created an environment where employees feel empowered to go the extra mile. “You can’t put that into the job description,” Sue explains “you have to create an environment where it’s possible for staff to feel able to go above and beyond for the customer.”


To align the team around the processes to deliver an excellent customer experience it’s vital to invest time in selecting people who are going to be great team players, who want to enhance the culture, people who are going to be collaborators in the whole experience regardless of their position or role.

“You have to start off with recruiting in the right people,” says Sue “once they are on board communication is key, and this starts from day one with a great orientation process to align them to the culture and purpose of the organisation.” She explains that to feel empowered employees need to be given the “guardrails” to have the authority and expectation to constantly seek improvements.


Creating passion in an organisation is about creating a work environment where everyone is invested in the mission. “If staff don’t feel respected or valued they will look for opportunities to move on,” explains Sue “you can’t afford to lose your best talent.” At Ritz-Carlton staff are referred to as “Ladies and Gentlemen”, they are service professionals serving a high-end target audience and they are treated with respect for the role each one plays in the success of the service delivery. Consistent and constant communication is essential to ensure that the passion for service excellence permeates the business and is delivered at every touchpoint.

For Sue it’s simple – “If you embed the 3 Ps – Purpose, Process and Passion in your organisation’s culture you create the building blocks that have to be in place to create the best possible experience for customers and staff alike.”


Sue is part of Wavelength’s SpeakersHub. To view her full biography & video and book her to speak at your own event please click here.

Sue is also often a regular contributor to our Connect programme. For more details on our 2018 programme and to download the brochure go to Connect 2018.

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