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Hospitality Conversations � Understanding the Developing
Perspectives in Quality Assurance
(Part 2 of 2)


The terms �Quality and Excellence� are often very hard to explain in a single word, yet as consumers, we seem to know instantly if the hospitality service or product we are receiving is of the caliber we expected.   In this two part series on Quality, I spoke at some length with John Roberto, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of Quality Assurance at LRA Worldwide, Inc.   , ( a well-known, international company that works with many different types of hospitality and service businesses. 

In this Hospitality Conversation, I asked John to share some insights on trends and different approaches that his firm is seeing in Quality Assurance.  In Part 1, he provided an overview of Traditional Quality Assurance Inspection formats and Brand and Product Evaluations.   While both are still used by a good number of organizations, he described them informally as �past and recent past� in that they were building blocks to the next and third evolving trend.  The LRA professionals view the Branded Experience Evaluations as the most forward looking and exciting of programs, because they are more all encompassing of the entire guest experience and are inclusive of many more facets of the guest stay. 

Question 1:   You earlier in our conversation that both the Traditional and the Brand and Product Evaluation QA formats were still widely used.  Why the need for yet another program for hoteliers to learn and adapt to? Is this more than �change for the sake of change?��

Answer:  Good question and let me answer in two parts.  There are a good number of companies that find the first two approaches work well for them.  They tend to be smaller, more rooms-only or select service properties and these approaches may meet their needs for the near future.  The third type of Quality Assurance program, Branded Experience Evaluations,  is meaningful for all types of properties because it supports all of the touch points in the guest experience, ranging from marketing to reservations to each service delivered.

This is not �change for the sake of change,�� but rather is meant to address the expanding demand for QA programs to support more departments and specific brand culture. These include marketing initiatives, service commitments, guest touch points, brand language, facility overviews and more.  The first two QA approaches touch some of these, but not nearly enough for the travelers of today who are growing in their sophistication and expectations.

Question 2: In Part 1 of our conversation, you shared that Traditional Quality Assurance Inspection focus on cleanliness, facility condition, certain life safety related items and they are evaluated by corporate operations groups and/or the QA group. You said the Brand and Product Evaluations were more Operational Focused and these QA efforts were jointly evaluated and �owned� by both operations and brand marketing for the first time, with a focus on �brand influence�   How do the Branded Experience Evaluations differ?
Answer: With the growth and increased influence of a number of major brands, the standards are all the same, as hotel ownership has made the decision that those standards are part of solid business practices.

The Branded Experience Evaluations differ from the first two I outlined in that they are clearly more flexible and can be prescriptive.   The consultant will know the specific performance of a property in advance, such as external ratings, satisfaction scores submitted from a third party and the focus is both subjective and objective, which is very different from a numbers-only rating QA approach. 

The assessment and views of the professional consultant are welcomed. They might be presented in a narrative (using the brand terms) that is valuable for the property, and may or may have a score attached.  These programs also look to evaluate if the marketing message and service commitment of the brand are reaching the customer, as those are considered essential for the brand long-term strategy success. 

Question 3 With so many types of service and continuously expanding brands, does this Branded Experience approach work at all types of properties?
Answer: The QA Landscape is certainly becoming more extensive and wider in scope as hotels expand into more entertainment and try to create a culture of their own.  More properties are focusing on the total experience vacation, becoming more destination oriented and working to personalize their specialty markets.

There are some differences.  The luxury and life-style brands tend to �step out of the box� and require more relevant measurement techniques that focus on measuring their unique service culture.  Full-Service brands increase focus on service delivery, while Select Service focuses on product differentiation, while maintaining the core elements they find their guest value.  Economy properties may only have one visit per year, but may be a longer evaluation in that visit, appropriate for each brand. 

Visits overall are un-announced and the approach may differ somewhat by brand and by kind of property (resort, airport, destination, suburban) to gain more focused information.

Question 4 Doesn�t this approach mean less monitoring and longer times between visits?  A great deal can happen or rum amok in six to twelve months, can�t it?

Answer: It could, but the visits are not the only interaction the property has.  There are many factors today  considered, including the commitment of the owners to meet the agreed upon brand standards.  When one includes all of the measurements available, such as GSS, self-audits, associate engagement surveys, social media, online reviews and more, there is too much information available for a property to drift too astray without being on the radar.  Putting all of these together leads to a more accurate balanced scorecard.   If there is a problem identified, a re-audit or extra visits (for a fee) are arranged and charged to the individual properties.

Question 5 You mentioned the �self-audit�.  I really enjoyed the self-directed Tool-Centered Audit that your LRA Director of Information Technology, Michael Getter, shared with me.  Do hotel managers really use this tool?

Answer: More managers embrace this each month because it really helps them to assess their entire property in each area.  For example, we have some companies that have extremely detailed self-audit area that assign �owners� by physical area or department. Some use strictly �yes or no� responses, while others provide areas of concentration that might look at 50 or more specific topics.  These can be addressed by a schedule (weekly, monthly, quarterly) and comparisons and improvements noted.  They can be used as means to build pride and/or address certain projects that may have been identified as an area needing attention..

They can also assist a hotel build a case for needed capital improvements and for owners and management groups to evaluate circumstances with limited bias. Each company can create its� own values, which allows for them to excel at what their guests feel is important.

Closing question: John, your bio says you have evaluated over 1,000 properties � can you name a favorite?
Answer: That would certainly put me on the spot, wouldn�t it?  I will share that I have had exceptional hospitality service at a select service property in Arkansas from the night auditor, which pleasantly surprised me.  I have also experienced exceptional attention by a major city 5 star hotel staff that also exceeded my expectations by the �little things� they noted in my reservation call that they delivered on.  These two examples illustrate the reality of how much �hospitality is a people business�
John Roberto, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Quality Assurance
John Roberto is the leader of LRA's Quality Assurance Group, a member of the firm's Management Committee and one who played a key role in the formation of LRA�s quality assurance, mystery shopping, inspection, and compliance programs. Now in his thirteenth year at LRA, John has traveled extensively around the world and has personally visited more than 1,000 hotel properties. At LRA, he is responsible for managing a number of major client relationships in the hospitality and leisure, sports and entertainment and food services industries.   A graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA., his industry background includes positions with Stouffer Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels and luxury independent properties as well as service as Housing Manager for the 1990 Goodwill Games. 
Keys to Success 
Hospitality Tip of the Week: 

Focus on Quality  �Quality cannot be a sometimes thing by some people. Create teams by involvement through meaningful Quality Assurance Programs. Concentrate on Quality and Quantity will follow. Lead by visible example � being �in-touch� yields proactive results.�
John Hogan, Hotel Common Sense Philosophy #3

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( of successful corporate and academic mentors delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing the hospitality industry. is a membership site offering a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas that are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability.   Special introductory pricing is in effect for a limited time that also includes a complimentary copy of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD- A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.  If readers would like to contribute to the site, please submit your material for consideration to [email protected].  We are interested in expanding our global networks and resources as we support our membership.

Sherona Shng
Vice President - Communications
Langham Hotels International
Tel:   (852) 3552 3938
Fax:  (852) 3552 3902
Email: [email protected]

Also See: Hospitality Conversations � Understanding the Developing Perspectives in Quality Assurance Part 1 of 2 / Dr John Hogan
Hospitality Conversations: Examining the Learning Options Available in the Hospitality Field / Dr John Hogan / July 2010


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