WHAT DO GUESTS WANT?

Success in business isn't a function of luck. It's the result of creativity, planning and hard work. Such is the case for chains like Microtel and Omni, both multiple segment winners in the J.D. Power and Associates annual Guest Satisfaction Index.

Neither is the largest or most well-known brand in its respective market class, yet for five years in a row Microtel has been top among 15 brands in the index; likewise, the 40-property, privately held upscale Omni chain beat brands like Westin, Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt for two consecutive years.

Omni President Mike Deitemeyer sees the award as validation of the chain's recent initiatives, in particular a shift in corporate culture to emphasize guest experience as well as service.

“The senses, including sight, sound, taste and smell, have a dramatic effect on how guests feel about their stays,” he says. “At Omni, we create what we call moments of service by scripting an appropriate experience for each guest.”

The chain recently formed a Sensory Advisory Board that includes executives from non-hospitality brand companies to help Omni create stimulating sensory experiences for guests. According to Deitemeyer, the implementation of these ideas has helped the Texas-based chain realize a 50-percent jump in repeat business.

At Microtel, the mandate is to listen very carefully to what guests say — both directly to the chain and in the results of the J.D. Power studies.

“Through both the J.D. Power report and our conversations with customers, we've found that guests value consistency above all else,” says Roy Flora, executive vice president and COO of US Franchise Systems, Microtel's parent company and a unit of Global Hyatt Corp. “In everything we do, we regularly drive home that point to our franchisees and our corporate employees.”

Several years ago, Microtel switched from a typical chain QA inspection process to use mystery shoppers to evaluate properties. “Some of the items covered by the mystery shoppers are tailored directly to the J.D. Power criteria,” says Flora. “And we've studied the detail in the J.D. Power critiques to improve our service and facility offerings.”

Examples include an enhanced bedding package the chain is rolling out and planned improvements in the content and presentation of free continental breakfast. But Flora says the chain is careful to not make hasty changes.

“We constantly solicit our franchisees on issues of guest expectations, and we never make enhancements to the product unless we believe they can be cost-effective,” he says.

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