Training Top 125 Best Practice: Choice Hotels International’s My Comfort Culture
Choice Hotels International is one of the world’s largest lodging companies, with 6,500-plus hotels in more than 40 countries. Comfort is the company’s flagship brand, with 1,600-plus properties. Comfort’s performance is a strategic priority with emphasis on guest satisfaction, revenue, and market share.
Comfort previously focused on investing in product improvements with limited attention to the guest experience or developing people in a consistent way. As a result, key performance metrics were below expectations. In 2015, Choice Hotels aligned product improvements with guest experience and associate learning in a project called My Comfort Culture.
My Comfort Culture goals are to help franchisees build stronger teams, improve customer service, and drive brand performance. To accomplish this, the Learning and Development (L&D) team had to establish buy-in and a sense of urgency across an extensive franchisee portfolio and get internal stakeholders to think differently about learning—shifting from a module-only mindset to a practical and tailored one. The program includes:
- Comfort’s service basics
- Peer-based learning
- Leaders as teachers
First, the L&D team identified Comfort’s service values and behaviors. To reach the thousands of Comfort associates with consistent messaging and establish a common service language, service basics training occurred through two online modules designed for three unique audiences.
Second, the L&D team introduced a targeted approach to learning and performance by establishing a Brand Champion program. This three-month peer mentoring program matches leaders from properties with higher guest satisfaction scores with lower-scoring ones to share best practices and practical advice. As part of the matching, each property completed a culture assessment to determine whether it had a strong service culture to go with its guest satisfaction scores. The L&D team developed tools and resources to facilitate this learning process.
Third, to reinforce and activate service basics at each property, the team built the Service Champion program, including Service Champions and Comfort Rallies. Service Champions are the primary on-property proponent for service learning initiatives. It launched at the annual Owner/General Manager (GM) Convention via instructor-led session. The L&D team developed the Comfort Rally app to support Champions and encourage leaders as teachers. Rallies are short, 15-minute on-site training sessions facilitated daily by the Champion or designee. The app pushes information to Champions, reinforces ongoing learning, and encourages dialogue and solutions that are property specific.
Within four months of implementation, more than two-thirds of the portfolio were represented (1,071 properties). It took more than a year for that level of adoption with previous initiatives.
Comfort has 33 consecutive months of RevPAR Index Growth (an industry metric that shows a hotel’s success based on occupancy and room rate), which means the company is capturing market share. Guest satisfaction scores on the arrival experience are up nearly 4 basis points; departure experience scores are up 6 basis points; and helpfulness of staff scores are up 5 basis points.
This has been integral to overall company performance, as well. Since 2016, franchisee revenue has grown more than 10 percent, and Choice Hotels is outpacing the competition with RevPAR growth of more than 2 percent.