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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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.