Bed, board and breakfast: HR at Hilton Hotels

by 30 Nov 2011

Australian consumers are complaining in ever increasing numbers about lackluster customer service. The latest American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, which surveyed thousands of people across 10 countries, revealed that Australians are among the most vocal complainers in the world. And perhaps they have a point?

What can HR professionals do to improve the situation? A great deal, says Richard Todd, regional director of human resources for Hilton Australasia.

“It’s so high on the HR agenda [at Hilton],” says Todd. “We need to be publically recognising stories of where team members are going above and beyond, because the expectations of the customers are increasing, and meeting those expectations is so important. Unless HR is driving that process through operations, it’s not going to change at all.”

To that end, the company has rolled out a global cultural integration program called Blue Energy. On one level this is a Facebook styled company intranet platform that allows employees to build their own profiles and communicate about what they are doing at work. However, the initiative runs deeper than being a mere communication channel. The overarching purpose of the site is to share stories of teams living the brand pillars using images, film and the written word.

“The pillars are about the customer experience: the room, the food, their expectations, the respect and value we show them,” says Todd. “What HR is doing is recognising, through this Blue Energy program, what good customer service looks like, and sharing that experience so everyone can see what makes a difference to the guest, and how can we continue to do those things. What it’s doing is driving our customer culture.”

Todd can log on to the site before he visits any hotel property and print off the stories that have been shared about that particular hotel. He then reinforces those pillars by meeting with the employees and letting them know there’s a higher level of visibility: right up to the company president. Team members are also rewarded with cash vouchers and prizes for living these values.

Todd cites a recent example. A guest arrived at the Hilton Sydney for a corporate function, only to discover he had left his work shoes at home. He asked a hotel concierge if shops were open but being early Monday morning, none were. The concierge asked the shoe size and offered his own shoes after he realised they were the same size. “It’s all about demonstrating how we go above and beyond,” Todd adds.

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