In 1998, Antoine Cau, the new chief executive for The Forte Hotel Group and his management team recognised their business was facing a great challenge. Research conducted by Mori among 1,026 employees had found that while employees were loyal to the hotel in which they worked, there was limited loyalty to the particular brand they worked for and a low priority to Forte itself.
Staff morale was low and in some areas labour turnover had reached 81 per cent. Within the market place, product differentiation had become extremely difficult.
Forte needed a new, unified image which every employee could be proud of and contribute to, and which would attract new customers and inspire their loyalty. The management team identified improvements in customer service as the key driver to the changes they required.
Forte invested £10m over a three-year period in a customer service initiative, called Commitment to Excellence. The programme took a holistic approach to improving customer services, asking guests what kind of service they required and turning this knowledge into training that would build the necessary behaviours in individuals, teams, departments and hotels.
It was possible to identify the main areas where current provision fell short of customer expectations and a training design team was established to produce company wide initiatives to bridge these gaps.
The scheme was cascaded through the business, allowing line managers to deliver the initiatives required for each brand with HR’s support, rather than HR acting as sole provider. Alongside this, Forte developed new communication tools and introduced an employee reward scheme to recognise outstanding levels of customer service.
Clear, measurable success criteria were established at the outset of the project. Guest and Employee Satisfaction Tracker surveys are carried out twice a year which showed Commitment to Excellence to have had a positive effect across all of Forte’s brands.
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