[Sponsored by IHG]
In 2008, the recession hit, devastating the economy. Corporations downsized. Millions of jobs were lost, jobs that will never come back. That event changed work forever. The idea of work-life “balance” died. What we see now is a work-life “blend”–there is no longer a line between the two for the Modern Business Traveler.
Crowne Plaza® Hotels and Resorts is a brand evolving with this new kind of guest. We are taking our brand farther and faster than we ever have and implementing our most ambitious plan ever. We are investing generously in reinventing our organization to lead the industry in meeting the needs of today’s business travelers. Recognizing this is no easy task, we know we have to keep moving forward at a rapid pace.
Toward that end, we’ve embarked on our Accelerate program, a $200 million multi-year investment to improve our performance and propel us to the forefront of business travel in the Americas today. Hence, our new purpose: Making Business Travel Work.
How are we achieving this large-scale change? How can all of us, as an industry, do a better job of keeping guests at the center and catering to their blended lifestyles?
What have we accomplished with Accelerate that we advise the rest of industry to do? Here’s a six-point blueprint:
1. Make the right first impression. We introduced a new brand identity and a new look, including a wardrobe collection developed in partnership with fashion brand Timo Weiland. New uniforms from a popular designer make an excellent first impression while keeping our brand culturally relevant. Our New Modern global design philosophy is purposeful and inspired, just like our guests.
2. Get connected. Online access 24/7 should be a given. We set up free WiFi and Power Everywhere with numerous and accessible power outlets. Some of our guests now get three to four times more bandwidth than before, and at lower cost.
3. Promote sound sleep. In the past, our pillows scored low in surveys, with JD Power even ranking us last among our competitors. Therefore, we made best-in-class pillows, the same you’ll find at our luxury brands, a new standard. We improved our mattresses, too.
4. Feed well. We’ve evolved our operating model for food and beverage by introducing new menus, recipes, collateral, and training programs. We’ve also launched new financial tools to help us reduce costs. Average revenue is up and costs are down, leading to double-digit profit margin gains.
5. Offer a “blended experience.” Guestrooms should be designed equally for both work and play. Our WorkLife room caters to business travelers’ blended lifestyles by providing distinct zones for work, relaxation, and a great night’s sleep. Guests have taken notice and are willing to pay a higher rate for a WorkLife room.
6. Create a “third space.” There’s your office, your home, and the places you go in between. These in-between locations are known as “third spaces.” Current examples today are Starbucks and WeWork. The most important innovation in our brand’s history, Plaza Workspace, provides this “third space.” It’s for collaborating with colleagues, hosting an informal meeting, or working solo. It’s for preparing for a big pitch, then celebrating after.
We aim to consistently deliver exceptional service to our guests. To do this, you have to train your hotel leaders and team members to make meaningful, personal connections with guests and appreciate that they are so much more than a room number.
In order to change a brand, you also have to change your culture. To me, a strong culture means strong teams. Strong teams deliver “best-ever” performance and growth. So, we created the slogan “Keep Moving Forward” as our rallying cry. Our people have embraced this attitude, and now deserve credit for all the measurable progress we’ve made in our transformation.
These six steps are the essentials, the cost of admission, for boosting our brand and satisfying our guests. And we’re just getting started.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to learn and evolve so we can keep moving forward on this journey. We invite the industry to come along with us.
About the Author
Eric Lent is Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for Upscale Brands at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). As part of this role, Lent is leading the Crowne Plaza Accelerate program, a $200 million investment from IHG and multi-year plan to transform the brand in the Americas region.