Challenges and opportunities
As one of the world’s largest hotel groups, the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) operates seven major hotel brands: owning, managing or franchising over 4,500 hotels in over 100 countries.
IHG asked Engine to help them design and deliver a group-wide guest experience development project across their brands, to further the delivery of excellent and consistent service experiences.
Engine spent over a year defining the distinct services and guest experiences of each brand and then designing a process to systematically deliver the programme, embedded in staff behaviours and training for consistent delivery and results. We began with a pilot project with one of the brands to establish the approach and provide the implementation tools to guide the senior teams across all IHG’s brands and regions (EMEA, AMER & APAC).
What we did
We began the programme by working with the core IHG team to define key objectives and to pilot an approach with a single brand - Holiday Inn - which would define differentiation, an ideal guest experience and key opportunities. We involved stakeholders from different departments and regions in this development to ensure everyone’s input.
Engine then ran a series of workshops across each of the three global regions. We used empathetic tools such as mystery guests, personas and analogous service experiences to fully explore Holiday Inn’s ideal guest experience. We used the results of the workshops to identify key areas to develop and created a customer journey map detailing the ideal guest experience. The teams from Holiday Inn then used this work to review their service standards and to refine their plans for future innovation in line with the ideal guest experience.
This process helped to test and refine the tools to efficiently draw out the distinct features of each brand, to generate new ideas and propositions and to document next steps and tools for implementing consistent experiences. The outputs from the pilot were reviewed and taken forward to a more central department where development could be progressed consistently across all seven brands.
Working intensely with the direct client team, Engine then built upon the tools used in the pilot to create a detailed programme to enable all seven brands to simultaneously develop and deliver their unique guest experiences. With distinct personalities, histories and markets, the brands had very different needs and were at varying stages in their evolution. We aimed to generate concepts that could work across all regions and audiences, such as tasting sessions and takeaway recipes for the local cuisines served in the hotel restaurants. The process was designed to satisfy the needs of each brand and to provide tools to communicate their values and future plans in a coherent way.
We considered the challenges of cultural differences, language and brand identity to define a set of distinct service behaviours for the staff of each brand, to guide delivery and frontline staff behaviour. Engine worked closely with the HR team to align this with existing and practical implementation and training.
The culmination of the year of collaboration resulted in four key deliverables for each of the seven brands:
- A distinct and defined experience for each brand
- A set of initiatives to consistently achieve each experience
- Long-term plans for implementing change, and
- A programme for training Branded Service Behaviours.
One of the key success factors throughout this project was feasibility. IHG had to be able to action each proposition across hundreds, sometimes thousands of hotels. Engine worked closely with all the Global and Regional teams and subject experts to deliver work that is being used and developed across the globe.
All seven brands worked together within the same project, along with regional brand teams, HR and technology experts. This resulted in coherent frameworks being put into place that work for every brand, and new processes implemented throughout the organisation to continue the development of unique and consistent guest experiences.