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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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.