Zoe Schiffer

What would you accomplish if you had over 21,000 associates working on your company’s customer experience?
The question might sound unrealistic, but take a moment to dream big. With 21,000 people, could you:

  • Create customer experiences that are adapted to each customer’s needs?
  • Dig into every corner of your customer data to identify key learnings and trends?
  • Respond to every piece of feedback in real time?
  • Celebrate success, so associates take pride in their work?

Over a decade ago, Omni Hotels was bold enough to ask these same questions. Omni owns 60 properties across the United States, each one designed to be unique. Go to the Omni Dallas Hotel, and the decor and amenities will be radically different from those at the properties in New York or Boston. Yet Omni is a luxury hotel, with a responsibility to deliver a uniform level of high-quality service across all its properties. How could it achieve one goal without sacrificing the other?
Omni’s solution was to recruit all 21,000 of its frontline associates to help out.
The company decided to let each property run its own customer experience program. Rather than only routing customer feedback to a corporate department (which would then prescribe solutions for each property to implement), Omni sent feedback to each property for it to take action. This decision fundamentally changed how the company used feedback. It ingrained customer experience into the culture, and turned frontline employees into customer experience owners.
In a presentation at Medallia’s 2016 Experience Conference, leaders from Omni explained how their 21,000-person “customer experience team” overhauled CX at the company:

  1. Ensure high-quality experiences: The Omni team created daily standups at every property to discuss the Customer Experience scores from the day before. During these meetings, teams review the scores, discuss what they mean, and figures out how to solve any possible problems. This process embedded feedback into the company culture and allowed everyone to align on how to improve moving forward.
  2. Learn from historical data: Omni used historical data to solve for future use cases. If one soccer team requested better signage, for example, hotel staff would automatically put extra signage up before the next team arrived. This way, Omni staff learned from prior experiences rather than reinventing the wheel with every new group.
  3. Respond to feedback: Omni replicated these strategies online, responding to feedback in real time at a rate 2x the industry average. On TripAdvisor, Omni makes an effort to address every review when it came in order to optimize the customer experience.
  4. Celebrate Success: Finally, Omni created a Service Champions Program to publicly recognize and financially reward associates who went above and beyond.

Delivering exceptional customer experiences doesn’t require creating a CX department. Like Omni, if you give frontline associates customer feedback and the tools they need to interpret and act on it, then you drive consistency AND flexibility while making your whole frontline CX owners.