At any hotel chain, in fact, at any business, there are few reasons why customer perceptions don’t match customer expectations. In the hotel industry, this problem is even more evident because hotel chains need to manage customer’s expectations for multiple brands. In the case of Hilton, they need to manage expectation for 14 different brands in more than 100 countries. They also need to manage expectations for franchisees which account for 1,339 partners around the world.
At Hilton, I have seen many examples over the years on how the company is trying to close some of the most common gaps that cause customer perception to be lower than expectations.
Knowing what the customer expects
Hilton keeps close attention to what customers expect and perceive about the company and its brands. Every time a person checks out, he/she receives a customer satisfaction survey called “SALT” that they consolidate in aggregate and review at the hotel level on a weekly basis. This helps hotels to understand where the gaps are and where the opportunities for improvement can be found.
Selecting the right service designs and standards
Having 14 different brands allows Hilton to cater very appropriately to different user segments. Hilton has evolved quickly to adapt to consumers’ preferences and trends. Over the past few years, Hilton has launched two lifestyle brands (Canopy in 2014 and Try in 2016) and two soft brands (Curio in 2014 and Tapestry in 2017) to satisfy the appetite of new consumers for unique and localized experiences. Each brand including lifestyle and soft brands have minimum standards that must be met. These standards are carefully evaluated on a regular basis by the brand performance support team in any market around the world.
Delivering service standards
Hilton is committed to delivering the best service in the industry. Consequently, it is leading many of the initiatives that are considered revolutionary in the industry such as digital checking, digital key, chose your room, free WiFi and much more. All personnel in all hotels have access to great education and training on these technologies so they can satisfy any question from guests at the hotel level. Hilton employees are empowered to solve problems on the spot without the need of escalating them to managers or directors.
Matching performance to promises
Hilton releases internally each month a “US Brand Awareness, Consideration & Communications Tracking Report” which is an interesting compilation of how users perceive Hilton brands and how that compares with the competition. This report helps Hilton understand if it is any mismatch on what Hilton communicates and the perception of these benefits. one of the problems Hilton face now is that people don’t think benefits are a compelling reason to book direct, that metric was down to 82% from 89% a year ago. These results can help Hilton understand where the gaps are and what needs to be improved if it is mass communication or benefits awareness at the front line.
Evaluation of Perceptions
Hilton as a business is doing great, the latest internal brand awareness report shows that the Hilton portfolio of brands is above brand competitors by 14%. This is due to its good ability to perform the promised service accurately and dependably. Hilton has also relaunched its company resource and training platform (before OnQ, not “The Lobby”), to better serve hotels, partners, and other stakeholders. Hilton is also investing heavily in new technologies, from the mobile app to in-hotel upgrades such as digital key and free WiFi. Hilton is also improving their relationship with customers by signing up many more Honors members (currently 64 million) and targeting them with more relevant information based on their preference and historic relationship with the brand.