Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. Willingham

Don Willingham

Vice President, Brand Performance & Sales Support, Hilton Garden Inn

As vice president of brand performance support and sales, Don Willingham oversees the upscale, yet affordable, brand's regional brand performance support (BPS) team in operations and sales and marketing support. Additionally, Mr. Willingham provides direction to other shared service departments within Hilton Worldwide regarding the direction of Hilton Garden Inn. This includes product quality and innovation, as well as customer relationship management and training, operational support, brand sales and distribution, and the new brand openings teams. His overarching goal is for his team to provide the guidance, training, tools and resources for all hotels and ownership groups. A 20-plus year veteran of the hospitality industry, Mr. Willingham has served in a wide array of capacities, ranging from brand sales support to training and operations. He has a long-time tenure with Hilton Worldwide and played different integral roles in regional operations and development training for the Hampton, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites and Doubletree brands. Most recently, Mr. Willingham was the senior director, brand sales for Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton. Since 2000, Mr. Willingham work with the Homewood Suites brand serving as a regional brand performance support director overseeing more than 30 hotels, as well as facilitating the brand's extended stay sales training. He moved into the senior director, brand sales role in 2003 and was vital in the launch of the Home2 Suites by Hilton brand, as well as the creation of and leadership behind the Homewood Suites sales strategies and programs. Mr. Willingham graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a bachelor of science in Business Administration and a major in marketing. After graduating college, he worked for several hotels in the Atlanta area and went on to become the general manager at two Atlanta Hampton Inn hotels. He joined Promus Hotels as a training manager, where he was responsible for sales, pre-opening, and leadership development training

Mr. Willingham can be contacted at 703-883-1000 or don.willingham@hilton.com

Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.