Best Western International (BWI) is a major hotel brand with over four thousand hotels worldwide, each independently owned and managed. It’s not a franchise, however, according to Michael Morton, Best Western’s VP of member services. BWI corporate chiefs can’t just dictate what the hoteliers do. Decisions are made more “democratically” by members serving on various committees.
BWI has struggled with negative online reviews. They concluded that it’s not enough to have someone in marketing monitor brand buzz at headquarters, which is how most social media monitoring solutions are used. The real issue is closing the loop with a consumer who has posted a negative review before it can damage the brand’s reputation.
While each hotel may be part of a large brand “family,” the day-to-day operation is run by a harried manager who doesn’t have time to monitor social media feedback. But waiting for a complaint to be routed from Best Western’s headquarters staff was too slow and not “guest friendly,” says Morton. To be more responsive to guest issues, BWI members developed a collaborative solution whereby they empowered BWI headquarters to resolve issues immediately if possible. If not, then headquarters staff would connect with the hotel manager to work things out.
In 2007 Best Western launched the “I Care” customer care training program for its North American hotels. Later it was expanded to help international members. An integrated feedback management solution was implemented to deliver surveys, analyze responses, and distribute feedback to hotel managers.
But this only addressed solicited, survey-based feedback. Unsolicited social media feedback–on review sites like TripAdvisor but also Facebook, Twitter, and many more–started as a trickle a few years ago but quickly turned into a torrent. Best Western explored specialized solutions to monitor social media but found solutions too expensive and, more important, not integrated with the feedback management system they had worked so hard to implement. So Best Western co-developed an integrated solution with its EFM vendor that enabled a hotelier to see feedback from both surveys and social media on one dashboard.
In 2008 the Best Western’s ACSI score (a measure of overall loyalty) was an anemic seventy versus the industry average of seventy-five. Since then BWI has made good strides improving the guest experience to meet its stated goal to “lead the hotel industry in customer care.” In 2010 BWI was ranked the top midscale hotel brand in Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Engagement Index and earned a “Better Than Most” rating from J.D. Power’s North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study. By 2013 Best Western’s ACSI had improved an impressive nine points to seventy-nine, just three points behind industry-leader Marriott.
My family has noticed the improvement. Best Western has come to mean a quality, cost-affordable hotel experience, quite a change in a few short years. Feedback and action made it happen.
Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of CustomerThink.com, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.
For more information visit http://hookedoncustomers.com