Best Western, Crowne Plaza Won’t Stand For Bad Customer Experiences (And You Shouldn’t Either)



Brian Cantor
02/29/2012

In a business world drowning in hype for the need to improve customer experience, it is refreshing to see organizations willing to walk the talk.

Rather than loading brochures and social media accounts with hollow comments about customer-centricity, reputation-minded chains like Best Western, Comfort and Crowne Plaza have begun stripping their branding from locations that do not live up to the organization’s overall standards.

Key indicators of lagging performance include poor customer feedback and an inability or unwillingness to invest in creating an ideal, brand-consistent guest experience. In essence, if a particular hotel creates a customer impression unreflective of the image the brand seeks to project, it will consider eliminating the hotel from its system.

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"Identifying a brands’ underperforming properties is a thorough process, but sources said in the end it’s pretty cut-and-dried. Franchisors use a combination of quality assurance inspections and customer satisfaction scores," explains the Hotel News Now piece.

Best Western, in particular, ties the future of its brand to the voice of its customers. The hotel giant scores its properties based on an aggregation of customer feedback from comment cards and third-party feedback systems, and those with the lowest scores are subject to evaluation. Executives will visit four hundred localized resorts this year to determine their fitness from a customer-centricity standpoint.

Having outright eliminated five hundred properties for incompatibility with the overarching Best Western experience, the company now segments some of its properties based on a descriptor system. The chain assigns labels like "plus" and "premier" to those hotels capable of delivering elite experiences for patrons.

When assessing the experience delivered by hotel chains, it is important not simply to consider the friendliness of the staff but also the alignment between property quality and amenities and the experience customers expect and/or desire. It, after all, often takes more than a friendly front desk clerk to assure a customer of his value to the organization.

For Crowne Plaza properties, it means transforming the properties into high-class resorts that can compete with the Marriots and Hyatts of the world. Comfort Inn & Suitessees its brand objective as creating contemporary destinations that impress customers with resemblance to the photos and engage customers with homey offerings like updated fitness centers and improved breakfasts.

While the Best Western, Crowne Plaza and Comfort initiatives should serve as actionable blueprints for most brands within the hospitality sector, all organizations stand to benefit from their philosophical approach to the customer experience.

An inconsistent customer experience can cause irreparable harm to a brand, drastically undermining its reputation with customers and long-term commercial value. Action must be taken to assure the mission statement, values and customer-centricity espoused by the brand at its operational center drives each and every customer interaction at each and every customer touch point.

This need to drive a consistent brand experience, stemming from the reality that every single interaction with any facet of the brand creates a lasting customer impression of the company at large, is more significant than ever in a multi-channel, global customer marketplace.

Sure, some intricacies of the encounter might differ, but one’s overall experience with a brand’s call center rep in Manila should feel inherently-aligned with that between a customer and a social customer service agent in Dubai and a buyer and cashier at a brick-and-mortar location in Chicago. And all three experiences should feel like organic manifestations of the brand’s overall marketing message.

Success in today’s marketplace requires an acceptance of the link between brand reputation, customer value and overall corporation value. And from that, sweeping a slow social media response team or a beaten-down banking branch in Louisville, KY under the rug will emerge as what it truly is. Bad for the customer.

And bad for business.

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