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.