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 leading experience management firm Experience Engineering. Not only were guests happier, they also began to choose La Quinta more frequently.
“We began to see a marked level of decreasing complaints shortly after implementing Here For You,” recalls La Quinta Executive Vice President and Chief Operation Officer Angelo Lombardi. As a result, we were 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 experience promise. Developed as a framework for employees, Here For You helps them deliver a guest centered experience, day in and day out by truly understanding guest needs. Realizing the power of Here For You, La Quinta also used Here For You to help make critical operational decisions including upgrades to the property.
La Quinta engaged Experience Engineering (EE) to help the company better understand and orchestrate the experience it offered customers. 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 consumers’ beliefs and unconscious emotions, as well as behaviors and attitudes.
Experience Engineering also conducted an experience audit to identify gaps between the experience LaQuinta guests were having, as compared to the experience they truly desired. This included the use of a ClueScan, a proprietary technique EE developed for scanning, evaluating and managing human and operational “experience clues” from a guest’s perspective. ClueScans provide a framework for managing clues by helping to sensitize companies to the range and variety of experience clues their customers encounter every day.
The result? Experience Engineering recommended focusing on the three most powerful emotional frameworks reflecting how customers want to feel about themselves while at La Quinta properties: assured, settled in, and optimistic. This became the foundation for all the work that followed, which included the creation of an Experience Clue Print™ -- 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 La Quinta Chief Operations Officer Angelo Lombardi with a laugh. “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.”
As the interviews proceeded and clarity emerged, Lombardi made a major decision to make a substantial investment in ground enhancements, lighting, technology and other improvements. The core of Here For You, however, is the employee training to understand the unconscious emotional needs of customers and how to deliver on them. A series of intention experience clues were also developed and trained. Experience Engineering also helped develop course materials that La Quinta has since used in training sessions with all hotel employees.
EVALUATING EXPERIENCE ENGINEERING
“The team from Experience Engineering very gently, but firmly and without compromise, told us what they really thought. They are staunch advocates for the customer and I’m so glad now. I’m an EE convert and a believer!” says Lombardi.
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Julie Cary agrees. “The involvement of Experience Engineering made my life easier,” she says. “We have some pretty stubborn people here and it can be hard for them to see things in a new way. But Experience Engineering’s process was thorough and holistic, which was perfect. They analyzed our customers’ needs in a new way and gave us a customized solution. Experience Engineering’s approach is very deliberate, high touch and oriented to results.”
Making sure all members of the executive team were comfortable with the new approach also was a high priority for Experience Engineering.
“This represented a huge change for us and, remarkably, every single member of the executive team enthusiastically got on board,” explains Lombardi. “Experience Engineering provided all the data points we needed to believe in the results.”
At the end of the day, though, results must be measured by the business impact. According to Chief Operation Officer Lombardi, the impact has been overwhelmingly positive. “Beyond the marked increase in compliments and decrease in complaints, we’re also experiencing more repeat stays from our customers,” he says.