INTERNATIONAL REPORT—Business travel—fast, efficient, functional. But what many may not realize about traveling for work is that it can be quite emotionally taxing. Aside from the natural anxiety that accompanies presentations, meetings and dealmaking, business travel is often accompanied by little rest and even a bit of loneliness.
Crowne Plaza is tackling these problems head-on, however, with a new employee training program developed by The School of Life, a London-based school that offers classes and workshops to aid in the development of emotional intelligence.
The training modules sit under Crowne Plaza’s “Dare to Connect” complete service training program—developed in 2017—designed to elevate the guest experience while relieving office stresses.
“Normally, we have limited time to relax or disconnect,” said Natalia Perez, brand management director for Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Europe. “I definitely remember times when I’ve been up all night finishing a presentation, and then there’s the fact you might miss seeing your partner or family.”
While “Dare to Connect” is a global program, the training curated by The School of Life is specific to properties in Europe and aims to help staff recognize guests’ needs through practicing skills of emotional intelligence.
“The best kind of service alleviates anxiety by responding to, and anticipating, the particular ache we feel when we’re far from home, furnishing us with the emotional connection we’re missing. It can be a simple gesture or a short conversation—something extra that speaks to our needs and allows us to feel properly understood and attended to while we’re away from home,” Perez said.
Emotional intelligence experts at The School of Life created the employee training modules, which heads of departments at each hotel will run. According to Perez, these will be “huddles” with their teams on the material, using real-life examples they can apply in their everyday roles. The objective is to keep the training fresh with robust follow-ups, webinars and refresher sessions on an ongoing basis.
“The training we’re rolling out is to offer a more proactive, less scripted approach to our guests,” Perez said. “Nowadays, people demand more, and a great experience needs to have a human connection and go above and beyond. We believe guests can tell the difference between an authentic human interaction and a scripted approach. This doesn’t mean that our hotel teams won’t cover the key basics, but it allows them to have a bit more flexibility in their approach and add their own personality to it.”
The focus will be on developing six core emotional intelligence skills: vulnerability, self-belief, connection, anticipation, authenticity and perseverance. The goal is for hotel team members to be able to anticipate the guests’ emotional needs while they are traveling for business, allowing them to assist in the most effective way possible.
According to Perez, emotional intelligence is the ability to master a range of “soft” emotional skills that enable people to be able to thrive, manage themselves and succeed at their work.
“It’s about being more connected to our emotions and the emotions of others, so we can handle situations with patience, insight and empathy,” she said, which of course aids in successful business practices, something that’s quickly evolving.
“Business travel is changing, attitudes toward work trips are changing and how people manage their work/life balance is changing,” Perez said.
Those traveling for business are becoming more responsive to experiences that foster human connection and provide deeper understanding from colleague to colleague, as well as between employees and guests.
In addition to the emotional intelligence modules, Crowne Plaza has also partnered with The School of Life to provide hotels in Europe with tangible service enablers to support connections like these. The items include destination postcards given to guests at check-in to connect colleagues and friends and family at home, and a Better Meetings box—a box of questions, games and activities to help guests have engaging and productive meetings.
“At Crowne Plaza, we believe that emotional intelligence training can drive strong customer loyalty. For example, we’re more likely to return to the same café every morning if the barista remembers our name rather than because they serve the best coffee,” Perez said.
The brand’s goal to deliver a more proactive, less scripted approach can be as simple as a short conversation with a guest, Perez explained, like helping them plan their route to work or booking a car, or just remembering a guest’s name.
“There’s a lot of science behind the use of a name. If we could see a brain scan, we’d see that a part of our brain lights up when we hear our name,” Perez said. It makes us feel recognized, validated and connected. What’s more, research shows that we tend to like people more when they use our names.”
Crowne Plaza is implementing other programs as well to redefine business travel and foster an approachable workspace, including a new room and lobby concept, WorkLife Room and Plaza Workspace, respectively. Perez said these will be rolled out at flagship Crowne Plaza hotels globally.
“Business travel places a lot of demands on us by others and by ourselves—and yet it also gives us the opportunity to think clearly about the particular goals, anxieties and direction we seek at work—when the right environment encourages it,” Perez said.
Crowne Plaza has run trials of the program in the U.K. and Ireland, including properties in Leeds, Manchester City Centre, Newcastle Stephenson Quarter and Dublin Blanchardstown. Compared with previous years, overall service scores grew by at least four percentage points and overall experience scores grew by up to 5%.
“To do our jobs well in the modern working world, we don’t need big muscles or to be supremely obedient; we need to be happy, engaged and properly understood,” she said. HB