Growing a Brand: How Internal and External Processes Shape the Customer Service Experience

By Don Willingham Vice President, Brand Performance & Sales Support, Hilton Garden Inn | April 07, 2013

With so many players in the hospitality space, it can be difficult to stand out and set your brand apart. At Hilton Garden Inn (HGI), we believe in cultivating and strengthening unique, personal relationships between the brand and our guests in order to grow brand loyalty and retain customers.

As a brand built on veracity and reliability, we strive to ensure our guests know they can count on us. Whether they're traveling for business or pleasure, alone or with family, domestically or internationally, we put the guest experience at the forefront of our operation. We believe the following guidelines are essential to build your brand inside and out to heighten customer engagement, guest satisfaction and retention.

The Promise: The Name of the Game is Trust

According to a study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, research shows that guests who are happy and fulfilled with their stay are more loyal to a brand and, therefore, are more likely to advocate on behalf of the brand. However, in order to achieve this, guests must trust the brand first.

The idea of a promise or guarantee can come in different shapes and sizes, but in the end, it provides an opportunity to further drive brand trust and reliability. The platform helps to ensure that patrons can count on the brand to meet their expectations, and if it doesn't, amendments will be made.

For those reasons, HGI launched the Hilton Garden Inn Satisfaction Promise in early 2012. As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of this guarantee, The Promise serves as a visual and emotional reminder to our guests that we will do everything in our power to ensure they are satisfied with their stay or they do not pay. To date, brand loyalty and value of experience scores are up by almost 17 points, while overall experience scores are up by more than 13 points among guests who are aware of the Promise.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.