Training Top 125 Best Practice: Best Western Hotels & Resorts’ Avatar: A Guest’s Journey
After field testing virtual role-play scenarios for several years, Best Western Hotels & Resorts (BWHR) decided to integrate virtual simulations into its “I Care—Every Guest, Every Time” program, a site-based training designed to improve guest interactions throughout the guest’s hotel stay, including pre-arrival, the arrival experience, on-property communications and service, and the departure experience.
A team of regional training coaches called regional services managers deliver tailor-made scenarios directly to all of Best Western Hotel Group’s (BHG) North American properties. The program emphasizes problem resolution and “everyone sells” techniques, areas of service culture that have challenged many properties, according to customer feedback data provided to BHG through Medallia satisfaction surveys. Scenarios are developed for all positions in a hotel and are implemented using a three-phase experiential model:
- Live simulation
- After-action review
Educate: Each staff member participates in a module that is delivered by a regional services manager focused on how to implement BHG service standards, while going above and beyond the call of duty for every guest.
Live Simulation: Staffers participate in one to two live mixed reality simulations, in which they interact with avatar-based characters that present challenging issues that mimic real-life customer problems. The mixed reality platform uses a combination of artificial intelligence and live actors to deliver powerful customer simulations where avatars perform the most challenging customer service behaviors that employees confront on the job. This blend of technology and human performance creates a fully immersive and challenging simulation environment where learners are forced to take risks, from which they can learn how to improve their day-to-day performance.
After-Action Review: Immediately following the simulation sessions, regional service managers and general managers deliver standards-based feedback to the staff, and the team reflects on how to better handle similar challenges moving forward.
This programs contains 27 fully scoped and designed scenarios to initially train staff, as well as provide refresher/recalibration training. Future trainings are based on hotel performance statistics and qualitative feedback responses gained through the guest satisfaction survey.
Hotels that received the training experienced the highest short-term gains in customer satisfaction that Best Western has ever measured in such a short period of time. Hotels experienced an average of 2 to 5 percent gains in post-stay guest satisfaction survey ratings compared to flat rates for nonparticipating hotels. Gains were strongest for problem resolution (5.1 percent), the main focus of the simulation-based training. The training feedback surveys report 97 percent of hotels were highly satisfied with the training.
BHG properties have experience a positive trend in RevPAR and the overall average daily rate (ADR), positive indicators that service culture, marketing, and overall hotel operations contribute to an increase in loyal customers. One means of measuring success at a hotel is using the Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS increased by 3.2 percent for Best Western properties that trained using the mixed reality scenarios.