Did you watch Choice Hotels’ president and CEO Steve Joyce, or should I say Jack Parker, on Undercover Boss last night? Quite interesting, and if you have it waiting on your DVR, I won’t spoil it. However, last week, I had the chance to speak with Joyce about his experience and after watching the program it’s apparent that Joyce found the experience not only rewarding in terms of strumming up a little recognition for Choice Hotel brands, but also for the fact that he was able to gain a better understanding of the front lines of his company and its people.
Joyce became involved with the show when one of Choice Hotels’ board members, who works at a company that had participated in the show and found it to be a great experience, suggested it. Turns out Choice executives had already been pitching the show’s producers on the idea for a year. So what was his experience like?
“The first time I cried was when they shaved my mustache,” he recalled. Joyce worked at a number of Choice Hotels location—incognito—and also performed double-duty as an undercover guest at some of the company’s other brands.
Appearances aside, Joyce said he found the show to be an opportunity to get back to the front lines and to find out exactly what employees of Choice hotels go through each day. “I’ve done all of these jobs in the past but hadn’t spent any real time on the front lines in quite some time,” he told me. “It was a good opportunity for that.”
And what he found was several hard-working people responsible for keeping up maintenance, keeping rooms clean, taking care of the front desk, and making sales pitches to potential groups. He ended up find more than a mustache to cry about as he encountered a number of heart-wrenching stories of employees who showed a penchant for bigger things but obstacles in their paths. “It reminded me of how hard these people work and I have a great appreciation for the people we have,” he said.
He also found that the front lines of the hotel business can be physically demanding as he struggled to clean pools in the hot Florida sun and clean rooms in an efficient and timely manner.
He also learned a lot about his company’s hotels. For example, he became particularly peeved to find out one location was charging guests for coffee and that at least some of the employees had no idea about the opportunities for training and advancement available to them. Without spoiling the outcome for those who haven’t yet seen it, the abridged version is that the experience helped Joyce and his executive team clean up some of those shortcomings.
The show was also an opportunity for the company to help consumers recognize Choice Hotels. While many consumers are familiar with its individual brands such as Econo Lodge, Comfort Inn, and Cambria Suites, many might not recognize the Choice name behind those brands.
I also asked Joyce why he thought Choice Hotels and the hotel industry made a good fit for the show. “One of the things I think they found attractive was that we could give them a lot of storylines,” he said. “For the industry, it’s great exposure.”
In fact, the hospitality industry will get a little more exposure when Great Wolf Resorts CEO Kim Schaefer takes her turn on Undercover Boss as well.
So, what did you think of Steve Joyce’s appearance and how do you think shows such as these can benefit the hotel industry?