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Treating Customers Like Family Pays Off for the Hilton Garden Inn
 in Downtown Salt Lake City

By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 6, 2010--Treating customers like family has paid off for the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Salt Lake City.

Bolstered by glowing testimonials from clients, many of whom are business travelers who stay there frequently, the hotel at 250 W. 600 South was named the best Hilton Garden Inn of 2009 -- out of more than 500 hotels in North America, Europe and Latin America.

"We are an awesome hotel, I have to tell you, and that's not just bragging," said Marilyn Sumner, director of marketing for the 132-room Garden Inn, which opened in 2006.

Not with the customer support she can call on. Consider these compliments.

"They make you feel special. You're the customer. You're No. 1," said Glenn Hollern, of Las Vegas, a territory manager for Colonial Life insurance company. "I could stay anywhere. But I wouldn't get better service, so why go anywhere else?"

Or this from Juanita McDonough, a pharmaceutical company representative from Boise. "As someone who travels quite a bit, you miss home. They've made it my home-away-from-home. The staff has very low turnover so they remember you. I see them do that with everybody and I appreciate that."

Same for Ken Mitsuhashi, who travels 100 days a year managing sales in a six-state region for CA Inc., a Denver-based information technology company.

<>The Hilton Garden Inn staff knows him so well that when he got new orthotics for his running shoes, causing them to squeak, "they brought me a bottle of foot powder to cut down on the squeaking." Before his morning run, the cook sets him up with oatmeal and orange juice, then has a heartier breakfast available upon his return.

"It's a personalized attention to detail," Mitsuhashi said. "There's a really nice mix of people who work there, very client focused."

Travelers aren't the only fans of the Garden Inn, managed by Marianna Black.

Salt Lake resident Lindsey Johnston has meetings every month to six weeks at the hotel as part of her job selling pacemakers and defibrillators for St. Jude Medical. Sometimes it's for five people, sometimes for 25, coming from places between St. George and Idaho.

"With the people I bring in, if something doesn't go right, it's a disaster," she said. But working with Sumner, that's never happened.

"She is always on the ball so there's no reason to go anywhere else," Johnston said. "Marilyn doesn't care whether it's a tiny group or a big one with a banquet. Her attention to detail is consistent."

The traits lauded in those comments match up well with the "Balanced Scorecard" used by Hilton Garden Inn to measure hotel performance. Tops on the list is "satisfaction and loyalty tracking."

So when it comes to handing out awards, Hilton Garden Inn global head Adrian Kurre said the winners "epitomize what our brand is all about -- guest satisfaction and a high level of customer service."

On a personal level, Sumner said, that simply means treating every customer just like the ones they see every week or two, "the road warriors. We like to recognize our guests' names so that this is their home away from home."

The Connie Award

Named after hotel chain founder Conrad Hilton, the award is based on customer scores rating staff service, the hotel's physical accommodations and its cleanliness and other quality factors.


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