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Awards Q&A: Hui Wu-Curtis, Choice Hotels (CX Leader of the Year Winner)

CCW Digital

Update: Hui Wu-Curtis was named the 2017 CCW Excellence Award winner for CX Leader of the Year.

Taking place as part of the 18th Annual CCW in Las Vegas, the 2017 CCW Excellence Awards will honor the world's most innovative and customer-centric executives and brands.

Awards will be issued for categories like Best-in-Class Contact Center, Best Culture, Best Omnichannel Provider, Best Training & Development Program, and CX Leader of the Year.

Ahead of the June 27 gala, CCW conducted brief Q&As with many of our finalists.  You can access the complete set of Q&As here.  We've included our interview with Hui Wu-Curtis, Senior Director of Customer Care for Choice Hotels and a CX Leader of the Year Finalist, below.

To learn more about the gala, which will feature entertainment from America's Got Talent winner Mat Franco, click here.

Your organization overhauled its QA program. What are some changes you made? Why were they important?

We realized that we wanted our contact center interactions to be more personable and relatable. After trying training, coaching, etc. we were still getting the same outcomes. So we decided to look more inward at how we were structured, which lead us to realize that we were causing this transactional type of interaction with our quality form. With our business changing, it was time to fundamentally change how we approached quality in our contact centers. We replaced our compliance-oriented quality monitoring form (and monitoring strategy) with one focused on competencies and the overall interaction.

We listened to calls for trends, process improvement opportunities, and impacts on our guest experience. Our quality team would take those insights and work with the business leaders to truly drive change that directly impacts business results. We evolved the way we approached quality from the historical listen, calibrate, coach to listen, identify, drive change. This fundamental shift not only improved agent performance, but it also positioned the contact center as a strategic partner that can feed meaningful insight to other departments.

The idea of a “customer connection” is philosophically important to Choice Hotels, but I’m curious how you – as a leader – encourage and empower your agents to actually make those connections?

If people in our contact centers do not feel a sense of purpose or understand how they contribute to the overall success for Choice Hotels, they will just go through the motions of work. If people understand a greater purpose – how they impact our guests’ vacations, family reunions, and business trips – they can relate and connect more because we can relate as people.

We foster the latter mindset in a variety of ways:

  • Our new quality monitoring is more fluid and open; it allows agents to interject their own personality and tailor each conversation to the guests as individuals.
  • We are always asking agents for feedback; more importantly, we always follow up on those suggestions.
  • When we have to say no to an idea due to regulatory issues, we thoroughly explain the issue to the team.
  • We have built a culture of collaboration, diversity, inclusion and innovation.
  • We not only reward individual effort but share details on how that effort has contributed to the business and/or to a great experience for a customer.

My role is to set this strategic direction, collaborate with my leaders to operationalize the vision and constantly tie all initiatives, conversations, coaching and training back to our customer-centric mission.

As a leader, to what extent do you – personally – interface with the voice of the customer?  What role does customer sentiment play in your decision-making?

All guest-facing sales and support centers globally report to me. I am personally involved with VOC not only from a strategic level but from an operational one. Through talking to customers, listening to calls and of course, looking at reporting and analytics, I strive to truly get a better understanding of what impacts the customer experience beyond survey questions.

While some keep their contact center in a silo, Choice Hotels sees an opportunity to take the millions of interactions that go through our contact center and add value to the business.  With this mindset and our revamped approach to quality, we have turned these millions of interactions into valuable business insights that are now shared with other parts of the organization.

I have championed this customer-focused approach within the contact center for many years; I have also driven that approach outward to reach other departments within Choice Hotels.

What would the CX Leader of the Year Award mean to you?

I am honored to have a great story to tell about Choice Hotels and our many global contact centers with our partners. All of the teams’ hard work and quick pace has shown us tremendous results in 2016, and the trend continues in 2017. Winning this award is a true validation of the teams’ efforts and results towards our commitment to our customer strategy. Not only are we early adopters to this type of approach, but we are truly making it happen. The award symbolizes the pride that I feel for the true collaborative efforts from our global teams – the recognition truly is for them. I’m only the channel that shares our journey and story of their efforts. We all want to make a difference in our lifetime, and this journey has allowed each and every person working in our global contact centers to truly make a difference! This award is icing on the cake and would recognize their tremendous efforts from a very important audience – their colleagues and peers in our contact center industry!