Colby Hutchinson – Director of Customer Experience (CX) & Brand Management Administration at Best Western® Hotels & Resorts.
Despite being in the hospitality game for over 25 years, Colby Hutchinson wakes up excited to go to work. His enthusiasm is infectious. I caught up with Colby when he flew in from the United States for the Best Western Australasia National Convention. Among other topics, we discuss valuable skills learnt through working in the hospitality industry. We also chat about how guest data is being used to provide personalised customer experiences and the importance of OTA’s.
Fundamentals for Life
Colby started his hospitality career as a dish-washer when he was sixteen years old. While studying business at college, he continued to earn money with hospitality jobs. After a few years Colby was hooked, admitting during our chat ‘Hospitality is one of those things, it gets into your DNA. Between the people and the travel, between the different experiences you get to provide and you get back from others, hospitality’s awesome.’
Colby found his passion early on in life and really began to notice the opportunities the hospitality industry presented. ‘If you think about where we are today right?’, he begins, ‘I don’t care if you go down the street to a restaurant, or half way across the world. Whether you’re talking food or you’re talking lodging, hospitality is one of those things that lets you experience the bigger world. It reminds people that we are more alike than we’re different. And I think that’s a really important message in today’s world, right? So, whether we are eating something or we are travelling for something it allows us to come together’.
Intrigued by Colby’s enthusiasm, I felt compelled to ask if he thought people are born with passion like his own. Is it nature or nurture that drives them? Colby suggests that it’s a bit of both, adding with a laugh that perhaps a certain flavor of crazy is also needed to work in the industry. He also suggests that everyone should work in hospitality at some point. Whether it’s starting as a dish-washer, working up through food & beverage, getting into sales & marketing or advancing into management. Colby explains in the podcast why all of these experiences are so important and how the lessons learnt along the way can set people up for life.
Working in a Data Rich, Process Poor Industry
The ‘Customer Experience’ is attracting a lot of attention within the hospitality industry. Extending beyond traditional customer service expectations, businesses are finally realizing that the key to success centres around the experience offered and how these experiences make customers feel.
Best Western have a strong loyalty program of over 40 million members, providing a wealth of insightful data. Advanced software is being used to better understand the information provided by the data. With the outcomes used to develop processes that deliver improved customer experience outcomes.
Colby explains that for years Best Western had only one brand. In an attempt to improve the customer experience, Best Western now have sixteen separate brands within their network. Each brand offers a different experience for a different target audience. Colby shares with podcast listeners how Best Western Hotels & Resorts are using data to further personalize the customer experience and exceed guest expectations.
The Benefits of Online Travel Agents (OTAs)
Reservations made through Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia, Booking.com and Agoda account for a large percentage of all accommodation bookings. In an earlier podcast episode, Graham Perry, Managing Director of Best Western Australasia, revealed that almost 50% of revenue from USA hotels under the Best Western brand is generated through loyalty member bookings. Knowing this, I was interested to hear Colby’s thoughts on the effect OTAs have on the large companies like Best Western Hotels & Resorts. In the podcast episode, Colby provides a very interesting perspective on the benefits of OTAs and how accommodation providers can use OTAs to their own advantage.
Also, in this week’s podcast
In this episode of the ‘That Bad Review’ podcast, Colby and I discuss:
- Winning with authenticity
- Learning to listen, act and care
- Measuring overall customer satisfaction
- The power of review platforms like Google
- Using data to increase the happiness of guests
- Make smart investments in people, processes and products
- Learning to view negative feedback as business growth opportunities
- Operationalising guests likes and dislikes
- The necessity of making booking inclusions clear
- Best Western’s newest brands – Aiden and Sadie
- Changing perspectives through travel