The Loyalty Principles: Gain and Retain Guests through Best Practices in Customer Service and Engagement

By Judy Christa-Cathey VP Global Brand Marketing Hampton Hotels & Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Worldwide | April 08, 2012

In today's competitive marketplace, building a personal and customized relationship between your brand and your guests can make the important difference between one-time stays and a group of deeply loyal customers who drive increased revenue and profitability for your business.

At Hilton Garden Inn (HGI), we strive to set our guests up for success in both their professional and personal lives. We are a brand built on dependability and integrity, and we want to ensure that our guests feel like they're taken care of, whether they're traveling domestically, internationally, for business or for pleasure. We understand that the guest experience is a core factor in differentiating your brand in a competitive marketplace and we believe the following principles are essential to customer engagement and retaining loyal, satisfied guests.

Principle 1: You're only as Strong as Your Weakest Link

Most brands in the hospitality world know that to be successful with client service, you need to have a strong support staff that can act responsibility and quickly at any guest's request. As the old cliche warns "you're only as strong as your weakest link," it is extremely important to create a solid employee training program from the start that's rooted in the customer experience. A new employee orientation should not only focus on the typical day-to-day routine, but should include best practices and interactive role-plays to help train the employee for any guest service situations that may arise.

Employee training does not (and should not) conclude after his or her first day, week or month on the job. Whether it means attending industry conferences, bringing in a trainer or having employees sit down with managers one-on-one, continuous education benefits all levels of employees from the most senior-level manager to the newest, most inexperienced team member. It is essential that your training evolves, especially if your brand is rolling out a new program or initiative, in order to handle any issues that may arise from a practical business or a customer service standpoint.

Many of our most successful properties have established deeply loyal customers due to the personal interactions customers have with staff members they encounter during their stays. It is important to remember that simple, thoughtful gestures go a long way with customers so empowering your staff to go the extra mile will make all the difference.

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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.