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Cendant Positive Guest Experience: quality reigns

The American giant’s method for ensuring that quality standards are respected throughout its entire supply offers a fine example of how a tool may be used for cohesion and discipline, which is imperative in a franchise network. The system it has chosen would appear to be particularly advanced and responsive…

With 6,000 properties and some 500,000 rooms operating under franchise contracts throughout North America and via eight brands (AmeriHost Inn, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Ramada, Super 8 Hotel, Travelodge, Wingate Inn), the Cendant Hotel Group (soon to become Wyndham Worldwide) must maintain a minimum standard of quality. It is necessary for the network’s cohesion. In other words, the biggest franchiser in the world cannot afford to economize when it comes to tools for ensuring homogeneous services throughout its properties. And yet the approach is relatively new. Cendant has developed an impressive Quality Assurance Department that exists for the sole purpose of ensuring that the standards of each franchise hotel conform to those of the brand. In extreme cases, and if the property at fault does not make adjustments despite the mother brand’s injunctions, the franchise contract may be broken. But this will be done based on objective grounds, thereby limiting any legal recourse.This meticulous method is backed by a second evaluation programme that is done directly with clients. The latter receive an email shortly after their stay in order to collect their impressions while they are still fresh. The questions, which are finely gauged, bear on the points that clientele are most concerned about. It takes 6 to 8 minutes to complete the questionnaire. The results are posted online almost immediately via the Intranet portal of each brand in the group. The major strongpoint of the programme lies in one word: reactivity. It is a powerful tool for internal purposes, but it also has a powerful marketing dimension with regard to the image it conveys to the public: it positions Cendant’s brands as being very concerned about customer satisfaction… and they make his known. The results on the questionnaires are treated in an equally rigorous manner. Once again, Cendant uses hi-tech tools designed by an important actor that sets the standard in the field: Medallia Inc. By connecting to the their brand portal, each manager can access six analysis tools that are particularly sophisticated: SatTracker (abbreviation for Satisfaction Tracker) posts customer satisfaction rates using data gathered from questionnaires. ProblemTracker makes it possible to evaluate in real time how improvements effect satisfaction. ResponseInvestigator highlights the major themes that resurface the most often in answers, GuestProfiler puts results from questionnaires into perspective and classes them by demographic groups. RivalTracker, meanwhile, is a powerful benchmarking tool that compares the hotel’s satisfaction rate with those of other brands with a similar segment and customer profile. Finally, LoyaltyTracker concentrates, as its name suggests, on analysing the return rate of guests and the property’s loyalty development potential. The array of computerized solutions thus covers all aspects of room sales and above all highlights real time results. For all these reasons, +GX is neither designed as nor perceived by franchisees as, a restrictive, disciplinary monitoring tool. Instead, everything is done to make it both a very perspicacious management advisor and their precious ally for improving hotel results.In this context, the Positive Guest Experience programme: code name "+GX", implemented in 2004, presents itself as a model of efficiency. Concretely speaking, it is an evaluation process that gets i ts particularity from the fact that it combines two approaches: mystery visits and satisfaction questionnaires distributed to all clients at the end of their stay. In this way, Cendant plans to paint the most precise and meaningful picture possible of how clients perceive its units. +GX was developed in a partnership with the Californian firm J.D Powers and Associates, one of the best American specialists. The feedback is collected, then scrupulously analysed; it bears on the most significant aspects of the stay. These are based on 10 key points: intention to return, intention to recommend the hotel, overall impression of the stay, overall impression of service, quality of reception, of the room, of the cleanliness of the room, of the cleanliness of the bathroom, helpfulness of reception and ability to provide information.The famous mystery visits are done by the group’s agents who are called "Quality Assurance Consultants". Each evaluation covers more than 350 points divided into four major categories: brand standards, maintenance and appearance, cleanliness and service... Nothing is ignored. These four major themes make it possible to methodically ensure that each of the brand’s properties will meet clientele expectations. The evaluation is unannounced in order to provide a realistic vision of what the hotel truly offers on a daily basis. The "maintenance and appearance" facet bears on the entire site. The evaluation of service, meanwhile, concentrates on various types of solicitation: a call before arriving at the hotel to get standard information, discrete observation of staff in action... Finally, hygiene is a crucial issue. Lack of cleanliness remains the worst shortcoming for a guest. Emphasis is placed on strict control of this parameter: consultants carefully examine the room and bathroom.Once this observation has been completed in total anony mity, meaning as if they were an ordinary client, the QA consultants reveal their identity at check-out. At this time they meet the hotel owner and managers and discuss their impressions as well as any improvements that need to be made. This approach is intended to be resolutely positive and the outcome is never a sanction, even if it might happen further to a warning: its goal is proactive.Once the "Quality Assurance Visit" is complete, special software (QA LOGIC) is implemented to generate a Quality Assurance Evaluation and Improvement Plan (QAEIP), which is a synthesis of the observations made and the areas for improvements. It takes the consultant about sixty minutes to write a report using the software. But QA LOGIC does not stop at underlining the hotel’s defects. Its function is more constructive as it also provides a list of potential solutions for each weak point identified. For example, if equipment is old or out of service, QA LOGIC can provide the references for the replacement piece as well as the points of sale where it is available. Management and staff at the hotel under evaluation are given specific instructions about what improvements need to be made, but the keys to doing so are also provided. The overviews may be consulted and downloaded in .pdf format on Cendant’s website.This meticulous method is backed by a second evaluation programme that is done directly with clients. The latter receive an email shortly after their stay in order to collect their impressions while they are still fresh. The questions, which are finely gauged, bear on the points that clientele are most concerned about. It takes 6 to 8 minutes to complete the questionnaire. The results are posted online almost immediately via the Intranet portal of each brand in the group. The major strongpoint of the programme lies in one word: reactivity. It is a powerful tool for internal purposes, but it also has a powerful marketing dimension with regard to the image it conveys to the public: it positions Cendant’s brands as being very concerned about customer satisfaction… and they make his known. The results on the questionnaires are treated in an equally rigorous manner. Once again, Cendant uses hi-tech tools designed by an important actor that sets the standard in the field: Medallia Inc. By connecting to the their brand portal, each manager can access six analysis tools that are particularly sophisticated: SatTracker (abbreviation for Satisfaction Tracker) posts customer satisfaction rates using data gathered from questionnaires. ProblemTracker makes it possible to evaluate in real time how improvements effect satisfaction. ResponseInvestigator highlights the major themes that resurface the most often in answers, GuestProfiler puts results from questionnaires into perspective and classes them by demographic groups. RivalTracker, meanwhile, is a powerful benchmarking tool that compares the hotel’s satisfaction rate with those of other brands with a similar segment and customer profile. Finally, LoyaltyTracker concentrates, as its name suggests, on analysing the return rate of guests and the property’s loyalty development potential. The array of computerized solutions thus covers all aspects of room sales and above all highlights real time results. For all these reasons, +GX is neither designed as nor perceived by franchisees as, a restrictive, disciplinary monitoring tool. Instead, everything is done to make it both a very perspicacious management advisor and their precious ally for improving hotel results.

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