LOS ANGELES—In 2015, Viceroy Hotel Group, a global lifestyle hotel brand, identified innovation as a portfolio-wide priority that required a proactive approach.
“We also knew it was a topic that could not be well-executed within the confines of the corporate office,” said Lydia Bartell, assistant VP, strategy & business innovation, Viceroy Hotel Group. “The more frontline voices that are involved in the innovation process, the more effective, feasible and differentiated our innovations become.”
The company envisioned a platform that would welcome colleagues at its hotels to share ideas about how to improve the guest experience, increase revenue and decrease costs. It sought a partner with an inclusive approach to effectively enable positive change for the organization through internal idea sharing.
After interviewing 10 management solutions, Viceroy Hotel Group came to the conclusion that SoapBox, an idea software platform, would be an ideal partner. “It is extremely intuitive and easy to use, which is very important for driving adoption across a geographically and culturally diverse colleague base,” said Bartell. “The software features are simple from a user interface perspective, and highly intelligent from an analytics and backend perspective, which was perfect for the scope of our innovation platform. We also knew we’d be in great hands with the advisory and support teams at SoapBox who have guided us every step of the way.”
Viceroy utilized the tool to support its broader community engagement and initiative called Viceroy Solvers. “It is an innovative platform to get us talking about how to do things better,” said Bill Walshe, CEO, Viceroy Hotels and Resorts. “Through the power of collaboration with all of our colleagues, especially those who interact with guests every day, Viceroy will be able to deliver a superior experience to guests, improve efficiency in hotel operations, and reduce costs for hotel owners.”
Fully launched in April 2016, Viceroy Solvers had 1,672 colleagues signed up, accounting for 62% of all colleagues. According to the company, 750 ideas have been shared, 68 are in advanced stages of implementation and 20 have been implemented. They are now able to connect with their colleagues at all hotels, share best practices and inquire about improving operational processes.
“Popular topics include how housekeeping can service guestrooms more effectively, how the hotel footprint can reduce energy usage and how communication with guests can be facilitated to reduce operational redundancies,” said Bartell. “A large focus of the ideas is the enhancement of the guest experience. Our colleagues are some of the most hospitality-minded individuals in the industry, and they have identified hundreds of creative ways to deliver unforgettable experiences to our guests.”
Recent examples include the assistant director of rooms at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, in St. Lucia, suggesting the creation of a comment card on the in-room iPads to give the hotel immediate feedback on guest stays.
“Often, a guest has stayed with the hotel for several days, and feedback is given via TripAdvisor, after the guest has departed and after the hotel has the opportunity to remedy any complaints,” said Bartell. “This solution enables the hotel to deliver a better experience to the guest, and mitigate negative TripAdvisor reviews.”
The executive housekeeper at Hotel Zeppelin in San Francisco suggested a bed-making tool to assist room attendants with lifting mattresses and smoothing linens. “During high-occupancy periods, the availability of clean rooms becomes the bottleneck of daily operations. This solution has reduces the time it takes to service rooms,” said Bartell. “It also reduces the physical burden of lifting the heavy mattresses.”
Feedback from Viceroy general managers has been positive. They have expressed satisfaction with the number and quality of ideas generated as well as the level of colleague engagement.
“Viceroy Solvers has proven to be a valuable tool in the successful opening of Hotel Zeppelin,” said Antonio Flores, general manager, Hotel Zeppelin. “The ability to communicate across all borders with people who are experiencing similar issues is priceless. They share best practices, propose challenges and show how other hotels have overcome them, and share fun photos of the Viceroy culture in action.”
Hotel Zeppelin’s management team also shared some examples. Armando Zambrana, executive housekeeper, stated, “During our morning line ups, we share comments posted from various [Viceroy Hotel Group] properties, especially those posted by fellow housekeeping teammates. The room attendants love to hear about the ideas and challenges and how they can incorporate them at our hotel.” HB