More than 8,000 Wows have been recorded to date, with 650 occurring in the first two months of the scheme as hotels competed in a weekly league table.
Underwood explained that since the introduction of the campaign, the proportion of customer service related complaints had dropped from 69 per cent to 17 per cent.
In 2011, staff turnover dropped 17 per cent and customer loyalty had increased, with repeat business up by 51 per cent.
Underwood said that against those improved figures, the total cost of complimentary items had only been £6,500.
She added that Wow training was now included in inductions and some of the special touches instigated by staff – such as those around birthdays and anniversaries – had become standard customer service elements.
Furthermore, recent employee surveys found that 96 per cent of staff now felt that they received excellent customer service training, and the proportion of staff proud to work for Malmaison & Hotel du Vin had increased from 87 per cent to 98 per cent.
“What made the programme innovative was the simplicity of the message,” said Underwood. “We highlighted that service was our top priority.”
May 14, 2012
Last year we witnessed the rapid and messy implosion of the superinjunction in the face of guerrilla communication, the high-profile demise of the head of the IMF, more MP scandals than you can shake a ballot box at and the ongoing News of the World debacle. Behaviour was squarely in the spotlight once again.
I was speaking at an event not that long ago attended by a host of senior names from the professional services sector. The core theme was brand development and brand engagement, an area of increasing relevance for this sector that has hitherto relied on the superhero/star-chamber model epitomised by the names above the door.
Professional services firms, particularly the legal ones, despite what the largely terrible advertisements may imply, are gradually recognising the importance of differentiation when it comes to competition for market share, mergers and acquisitions, succession and, yes, the war for talent. Consequently the role of HR may be assuming new-found prominence, given they are responsible for ensuring that the employer brand, values, culture and people processes – such as recruitment, performance management, and training and development – support rather than undermine the brand. They are accountable, ultimately, for ensuring that employees – and partners – keep the promises their firms make to their customers.
The various debates were fascinating, not least the shared insight that reputation, rather than brand, has greater resonance with partners. It was also apparent that in many firms the top team still resists attempts to include them in the common employee throng, making it extremely difficult for change facilitators to ensure consistency when communicating the firm’s brand.
There was a shared acknowledgement, however, that culture development is becoming increasingly important as a way of focusing on behaviour that may help differentiate one firm from the next in the eyes of the customer. But the change agents’ lot is not an easy one.
In such a politically charged environment, where hierarchy is still king, an objective “third way” can be very helpful. Measurement, in the form of a pragmatic and tailored employee engagement gauge, or culture benchmarking facility like the Organisation Culture Index, can be very powerful, especially if linked to customer data. HR has the opportunity to play an important role bridging the internal and external stakeholder communities.
Despite the inherent difficulties, HR functions can be hugely influential drivers of culture improvement to grow the rather vulnerable and extremely exposed “brand”, especially if they have the ability to convince the stars in the chambers that brand is less about process and more about behaviour and that there’s a clear business case for change. The value or price of employee advocacy is something most professional sevices should at least appreciate. If stuck, they can can make a start by asking the killer question….. “what price reputation?”
Bill George (2003), in True North, one of the seminal texts on leadership and authenticity, defines the concept of authentic leadership as, in effect, being true to yourself. This means understanding and being true to your values, finding your own style and ensuring that there is appropriate fit between your values and the organisation you represent. He refers to 5 dimensions:
1. Understanding and pursuing your purpose with passion
2. Practicing solid values
3. Leading with your heart
4. Establishing connected relationships
5. Demonstrating self-discipline.
Being your own person is absolutely key, it allows the leader to be objective and independent. Understanding what the real you is can be an altogether trickier undertaking. Clarifying the true culture and values of your organisation is a great deal more complex than consulting the marketing literature; but ensuring that the real you fits with the brand of your organisation is the trickiest proposition of all.
Authentic leadership is the central challenge facing anyone in a leadership role, who is concerned with brand management and believes that employee engagement is the key to effective brand management. It is the challenge that now faces true ceos, or as Caroline Hempstead, AstraZeneca’s group corporate communications lead puts it in Brand Engagement:
“The best role models and most effective communicators I’ve known are all:
- astute business leaders who are positive about engagement, not just pushing information
- good at simplifying and staying on message, linking information to develop a consistent story, adapted for audiences
- comfortable in their own skin, so their communication is authentic and consistent with other aspects of their leadership style
- as good at listening as they are at communicating
- being themselves and, therefore, they’re inspirational but also predictable which adds to the credibility of the message
The acid test always is “would I follow this person into battle”? That’s a characteristic which owes a lot to integrity and authenticity rather than being a slick communicator.