The New GM at the Ritz-Carlton Westchester Tells Us Why Service Is King

We chat with William Yahr, of the Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester, about keeping up the brand’s legendary image.

Photo by Paul Aresu

After 11 years with the Ritz-Carlton, William Yahr arrives as the new general manager at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester, knowing a thing or two about customer service. The sub-40-year-old Thornwood resident — who has held key roles at Ritz properties in New York City; Tysons Corner, VA; and Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne, FL — now oversees the iconic brand’s devotion to exemplary service at the 250-employee, 146-room White Plains property. One year into his new role, you’ll find him interacting with hundreds of guests and employees each day throughout the Ritz property, loving every minute of it.

You’ve worked for the Ritz-Carlton brand in several cities. How does the Westchester location compare with others?

The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Miami, is very similar to The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester: Both have two residential towers, a hotel, and beautiful, expansive meeting space. I frequently joke that Westchester is actually Coconut Grove North! Something unique about this market is the “New York state of mind”; New York is definitely
faster-paced than Virginia and Florida.

The Ritz-Carlton name is synonymous with customer service. What’s behind the hype?

The Ritz-Carlton comes with a great [customer service] foundation. We have a credo card, which each of our ladies and gentlemen have with them as part of their uniforms. Within this credo card is our employee promise, a list of service values, our company motto, our three steps of service, and of course, the credo itself, all of which we live by each day. The Ritz-Carlton also offers courses from The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, which delivers award-winning services that allow organizations to innovate their culture, improve employee engagement, and develop exemplary customer service environments that create significant competitive advantages.

What do you do to ensure that your team lives up to that Ritz reputation?

Three things are important in ensuring great customer service: communication, lateral service, and five-star employees. On a daily basis, I ensure that I am heavily involved in all of the happenings and departments at the hotel. I’m not your average stay-in-the-office GM. Our hotel culture thrives on teamwork and lateral service. In order to succeed, you need the help of others, no matter their department or expertise. Lastly, we find the best fit for each position. We not only look for their expertise but also the passion they can bring with them.

You took over as general manager about a year ago. What’s the experience been so far?

It has been an outstanding year and an amazing honor to work at such a prestigious property. Our ladies and gentlemen are truly some of the best in the business. Some of the challenges I’ve experienced: innovating and keeping up with technology and finding the best ladies and gentlemen to fill positions. In terms of accomplishments, I feel lucky that I can think through the many layers of customer’s needs. This is something I’ve learned through the Ritz-Carlton service values, which have provided a strong foundation in paying attention to the details and high standards that I’ve worked to instill at this property.



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