HB ON THE SCENE: Accor N.A. Conference— Consistency Key For ‘6’ Brands

IXTAPA, MEXICO—Although gray skies and a steamy downpour greeted them, more than 300 Motel 6/Studio 6 franchisees and corporate Accor attendees yesterday were bent on seeing a brighter outlook for the U.S.-based economy brands over the next 12 to 18 months—using consistency as the key—as they kicked off the first day of Accor North America’s annual conference here in this coastal resort town at Club Med.
In a segment with tight margins and scant wiggle room to manipulate rates, Motel 6 needs to trade on its decades-old reputation for what it is able to deliver, Accor N.A. CEO Olivier Poirot told attendees. “It means respecting daily that simple promise of a clean, comfortable room at the lowest price of any national chain. Our customers tend to agree with this, and respect our long-term commitment to price value and price integrity,” he said.
Additionally, he stressed, it means raising the bar on quality consistency and the type of experience the guest has. Toward this, Accor N.A. will be rolling out the feedback/data collection measurement tool, Medallia, to all its locations in 2010, when the “6” network expects to achieve a goal of 1,100 properties.
As of Sept. 30 (latest figures available) there were 646 corporate owned Motel 6 properties representing 72,584 rooms in the U.S. and Canada and 337 franchise hotels representing 25,170 rooms in the same countries.
Accor N.A.’s extended-stay product, Studio 6, has a total of 55 hotels in the U.S. and Canada both corporate owned and franchised, representing 6,374 units.
“Growth remains our key engine,” said Poirot.
During the past 12 months, 99 properties have opened.
“All the tools developed for Motel 6 are available for Studio 6, and more important, Studio 6 continues to benefit from the distribution halo of Motel 6,” said Poirot, who noted the company is looking to grow the Studio brand in ways beyond one-offs. “We’re still looking at taking over smaller networks out there, but have not been able to make a deal work in this environment without debt,” he said.
Now launched in Canada, Poirot believes Studio 6 has “strong growth potential” in that country.
As the network grows, Poirot indicated it was imperative that the organization “never stops renovating.”
With 60% of the system renovated in some form during the past five years, the group has a leg up in terms of meeting customer expectations. “We now need to focus on the outstanding 40%,” said the CEO.
He expected renovations to be complete on all corporate-owned properties within three years, while revamps on the franchise side would be linked to PIP cycles.
President/COO Jim Amorosia observed when it comes to consistency, the Motel 6/Studio 6 system is a mixed bag overall. “We have many locations that consistently achieve the level of product and service that the guests expect. We have many locations that are on the right path toward consistency, and with some additional help and leadership, will jump up to the first group. But we still have far too many locations that on any given day are—at best—a shot in the dark, and at worst are still hurting our drive toward chainwide greater consistency,” said Amorosia.
The executive expected Motel 6’s new Phoenix prototype and retrofit program would continue having momentum, particularly in light of the recent opening of the first new-build Phoenix prototype in Northlake, TX. “And we have completed 60 Motel 6 retrofits across the country,” said Amorosia. He added the company is developing a new Studio 6 prototype and is finalizing a retrofit for existing properties within that brand as well.
The service side also is under scrutiny and the company has crafted task forces for each of the processes that surround the primary points of guest interaction through the so-called Phoenix Ops Consistency Project.
“One of the areas we knew we needed to improve on was the speed of the guest registration,” said Amorosia, citing one example. “We have redesigned, and are currently testing, our hypothesis with the goal of cutting in half the guest check-in process from over five minutes per transaction to less than three minutes,”
Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Palmer said the Ops Consistency program would include defining and setting expectations around brand standards and standard operating procedures; rolling them out with training for staff; raising accountability and system compliance; incorporating more dynamic reporting; and creating a customer service culture.
Palmer noted the measurement tool, Medallia, had been beta tested at 40 hotels beginning in December 2008, with 150 properties added this past August. The program will be rolled out systemwide January 1 with the primary focus on improving the bottom 20 percent of corporate and franchise properties in the network.
However, Bernard Rudler, evp/franchise procurement and international development, stressed to the crowd “we cannot expect to see results improving only by changing measurement tools. For this reason, the ‘consistency programs’ were put together. It’s really time to act together by just delivering what needs to be delivered to our guest and be, all together, proud of our brand.”
The Accor N.A. conference continues today and features a trade show with some 35 vendors.