UK: Bringing A Luxury Brand To Life - How InterContinental Hotels And Resorts Repositioned Its Business For Growth

Summary

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is a leading global hospitality group, with over 3,600 hotels across nearly 100 countries and territories. Following a few years of indifferent performance by its luxury hotel brand, InterContinental Hotels Group decided to take action.

After redefining its brand positioning, InterContinental asked Deloitte to help turn its strategy into reality. "We didn’t realise how much Deloitte would add to the value and content of the programme," said David Anderson, Vice President, Global Brand Innovation, InterContinental Hotels and Resorts. "Initially we chose them for their programme management and facilitation skills, because we knew we would need their discipline and rigour to manage a programme of this scale."

Deloitte helped InterContinental to develop and implement a global programme to enable employees to understand the brand values and the role everyone plays in making these values a reality. This included a new service ethos to embed the behaviours required to reposition the brand, and to ensure that the brand lived and breathed throughout the organisation.

The colleague engagement programme, internally branded ‘The InterContinental Experience – You Bring it To Life’, was developed and piloted during 2005, and is being rolled out to 40,000 InterContinental employees in 2006. Ultimately, this programme will deliver increased guest and employee satisfaction as well as differentiate the InterContinantal brand away from its competition.

The challenge

In the context of a dynamic and strong competitor landscape, InterContinental’s growth agenda required a stronger brand and a set of differentiated offers in order to:

  • Strengthen the delivery of customer experience in a consistent manner.
  • Increase customer loyalty.
  • Grow and retain their current market share of the leisure customers.
  • Grow total brand revenue.
  • Aggressively grow their existing property portfolio.
  • Drive strong returns for their owners and developers.

To achieve this, InterContinental faced a number of operational challenges. These included significant cultural and language differences, as InterContinental operates across the US, Central and Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. In addition, few property assets were centrally owned, as a large percentage of hotels were managed. Lastly, the company had a mix of city-based hotels and resort locations, targeted at both the business and leisure markets.

To identify opportunities for improvement, InterContinental conducted surveys into guest satisfaction and employee satisfaction. These revealed that the key challenges according to guests were: staff attentiveness, attitude, anticipation of guest needs, empowerment to meet those needs and accountability to resolve problems.

According to employees, the key challenges were: recognition, teamwork, cooperation, authority to resolve problems and ongoing personal and professional development.

The solution

Given the extent of change required, the hotel asked Deloitte to help – initially with programme management and facilitation. This role broadened as the project progressed and the value of Deloitte’s contribution to the content of the programme emerged.

A multi-agency team led by the InterContinental Brand Team and Deloitte designed and implemented a global engagement programme for all employees, to maximise the brand’s biggest asset – its people. The objectives were to help employees understand the increasing importance of brand in the hotel industry, the evolved brand positioning and the practical role they would play in bringing the new positioning to life.

The starting point was the translation of brand values into three guest service and three colleague promises, which articulate what the InterContinental service should feel like. These were:

  • Genuine interest in our guests and each other.
  • Take ownership of requests.
  • Share local knowledge and authentic experiences.

The programme helped employees to make the link between the brand, the guest service and colleague promises and the changes employees needed to make in their behaviours to deliver them. In this, there was a vital distinction between ‘training’ and ‘engagement’.

Engagement requires understanding and action, and that’s what employees needed to do – to embody the brand values and make the right decisions to deliver the desired guest experience. After all, who wants customer service from a disengaged employee?

Deloitte also helped analyse the way the brand is expressed through products and services, such as concierges, and assisted in the development of a comprehensive package of new tools, processes and supporting material to truly deliver the new brand positioning. These tools focus on creating a personal link between the hotel and the guest so that rather than simply presenting a list of all the restaurants in a city, guests will have a few personal recommendations from the concierge. There is a ‘less is more’ approach, with an emphasis on ensuring the guest enjoys a local, authentic experience - one they can reminisce about later. This approach is reflected in a pre-stay email, interactive website and high quality local guide.

What was achieved?

InterContinental completed its brand repositioning in Q3 2005, with global press and TV advertising campaigns launched with CNN and in-flight carriers. The colleague engagement programme was piloted at five locations around the world in 2005, and is now being rolled out to 40,000 InterContinental employees in 2006.

"It takes best in class commercial execution to turn a powerful brand into increased market share and bottom line value," said Jenifer Zeigler, Senior Vice President, Global Brand Management, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. "Deloitte is helping us to create that within our business, and bring InterContintental’s performance to the next level."

A pioneering spirit is an explicit part of InterContinental’s heritage and so far the evolved brand positioning has resonated with guests, employees and owners. Although it is early in the programme, tangible success can already be seen with an extremely strong pipeline of new hotel openings, particularly in the USA and Asia, and an increase in consumer brand awareness. Once the employee engagement programme has had time to cascade its way through the system and the new concierge experience is rolled out globally, InterContinental is looking forward to increased occupancy and average room rate as further tangible indicators of success.

What next?

Deloitte continues to assist with the global roll-out of the new concierge service which is piloting in Washington, Paris, Caracas, Beirut, Manila and Bali in June 2006, with a further 50 hotels expected in September 2006. Formal specific measures of guest and employee satisfaction are in place to track the success of the current programme, and there are already plans for a refresher in 2007 to ensure momentum is not lost. The importance of corporate staff has not been ignored and a ‘lite’ version has been developed to ensure all staff have the same understanding of the evolved brand positioning.

In addition, guests can look forward to new service and product innovations, which successfully passed through qualitative and quantitative research, through 2007.

"We didn’t realise how much Deloitte would add to the value and content of the programme."
David Anderson, Vice President, Global Brand Innovation, InterContintental Hotels and Resorts

"It takes best in class commercial execution to turn a powerful brand into increased market share and bottom line value. Deloitte is helping us to create that within our business, and bring InterContintental’s performance to the next level."
Jenifer Zeigler, Senior Vice President, Global Brand Management, InterContintental Hotels and Resorts

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