Hotel Quality Assurance Trends in 2015 and Beyond
By Jim Coyle Founder & President, Coyle Hospitality Group | April 05, 2015
Historically, hotel quality assurance or "QA" programs have their roots in the hotel franchise model. Franchisors needed a way to ensure their franchisees were living up to the franchise agreement. Internal auditors or third parties were often deployed to measure hotels on a set of strict standards and unwavering objectivity. After all, the results of a QA inspection can play a big role in determining if a hotel gets terminated or de-flagged from its brand. Partially to keep things consistent and mostly because it wasn't a priority, little to no attention was paid to measuring the guest experience or customer service-all that has changed.
Years ago, many hotel differentiation strategies centered on creating and marketing unique physical features such as lobby atriums and not specialized service offerings. Despite concentrating on physical asset compliance, some upscale and luxury brands realized that service and experience were a key driver and supplemented or replaced their quality assurance programs with service-oriented mystery shops. Still, as recently as 10 years ago, mandated hotel quality assurance was almost entirely focused on cleanliness and condition and physical asset compliance. From buildings, pools to amenities, fixtures and bedding, if you could see it or touch it, it was measured. Any hotel inspector who was on the road during the "bed wars" of the 2000's will recall counting pillows and reciting mattress model numbers.
In recent years, lifestyle hotels continue to innovate the hotel industry by creating service-oriented points of distinction (Kimpton's Wine Hour comes to mind.) With service playing an ever-growing role in brand strategy and guest experience, hotel quality assurance has been forced to evolve. There is no doubt that the quality of hotel physical assets is important, but equally important is the guest experience.
Working with over 400 hospitality companies worldwide, Coyle Hospitality Group has the advantage of advising many different companies on their approach to hotel quality measurement. Innovative brands are re-examining how they measure quality in 2015 and beyond.
QA is a Tool, Not a Weapon
If you ask any hotel manager, he or she will likely tell you that terms like 'audit', 'inspection', and 'compliance' strike fear in them. Ironically, these same managers will confess that they thrive on quality feedback and are always looking for credible and actionable feedback to help them improve the guest experience. Innovative brands understand this disconnect and are reshaping their QA programs to become a tool to help managers succeed and derive guest loyalty.