La Quinta Grows Occupancy, Brand Advocacy, Earns Top Ranking for Outstanding Customer Experience by Delivering on “Here For You”

It’s clear something is going right when the decision is made to change a full-time employee’s job from dealing with customer complaints to responding to customer compliments.

That’s exactly what happened at La Quinta Inns & Suites following a rigorous, nine-month engagement with Experience Engineering. Not only were guests happier, they also began telling others about La Quinta, resulting in a marked increase in new guests.

“Our guest satisfaction scores jumped up much higher, new guests based on referrals increased significantly, and we began seeing a marked level of decreasing complaints,” says La Quinta Executive Vice President and Chief Operation Officer Angelo Lombardi. “We had been ready to simply eliminate the complaints position. Then we realized by asking our employee to instead respond to all the compliments, we would further demonstrate our ‘Here for you’ commitment.”

“Here for you” is La Quinta’s brand promise, which is based on the conceptual filter the company uses to make critical operational decisions—from outfitting each of its 65,000 rooms with state-of-the-art flat screen TVs, to guiding how its employees interact with guests. Thanks to its work with Experience Engineering, that simple statement represents a deep and comprehensive understanding of how guests want to feel as a result of staying at a La Quinta property.

As Julie Carey, La Quinta’s CMO explains, “To help provide an outstanding experience for our guests, our focus has been on two important areas: delivering the “Here for You” customer experience and developing a culture of engaged and motivated employees.” That focus is what earned La Quinta top ranking for its outstanding customer experience. In The Customer Experience Index 2012, from global research and consulting firm Forrester, La Quinta ranked second with a customer index experience of 83, well above the average score of the 13 national hotel brands evaluated from both the select service and full service categories. What’s more, a study conducted by The Gelfond Group, an employee research firm, found that more than 70% of La Quinta’s employees are highly engaged with the brand. A full 90% of La Quinta’s employees reported a high level of job satisfaction, are proud to work for the company, and are committed to providing guests with excellent customer service.

The catalyst for achieving these results was working with Experience Engineering to better understand and orchestrate the customer experience it offered guests.

The EE team led a research effort that included a series of in-depth interviews with key La Quinta customer segments. The interviews provided a thorough and integrated understanding of guests’ behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and unconscious emotions. The team also conducted an experience audit to identify gaps between the actual experience La Quinta guests were having and the experience they truly desired.

A key component of this audit was a ClueScan®, a proprietary technique EE developed for scanning, evaluating and managing human and operational “experience clues” from a guest’s perspective. When customers engage with La Quinta they consciously and unconsciously sense “clues” that foster their overall impression of the brand. The ClueScan® gave La Quinta a clear picture of the myriad triggers their guests encounter daily. Realizing that the way an experience causes a guest to feel is ultimately what they associate with the brand, La Quinta now had clear direction about what clues they should integrate into their guest experience.

Based on their research, Experience Engineering recommended La Quinta focus its experiential triggers on the three most powerful things customers want to feel about themselves while at one of its properties: assured, settled in, and optimistic. Igniting these three feelings became the foundation for all the work that followed, including the creation of an Experience CluePrint™—or practical blueprint—for implementing changes to positively influence emotional engagement. The program was rolled out in the first quarter of 2011.

“I was a little defensive at first,” says Lombardi. “I have more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and always have known it’s about the customer. But after working with Experience Engineering, I came to understand our service energy was on the surface. EE took us down to our very foundation. Now the customer perspective is much more represented in every decision we make.”

Understanding how guests want to feel transforms the guest experience and drives bottom line results.

Are Your Customers Ready for a Great Experience?