My latest report, "How Hampton Hotels Built And Sustains Its Customer-Obsessed Culture," is a case study of the hotel chain. The brand has been on a nearly 10-year journey to differentiate its hotels from competitors on the basis of exceptional guest experiences. It all started back in 2004. As part of the brand's 20th-anniversary celebration, Hampton asked its hotel owners to make about 120 product upgrades ranging from curved shower curtain rods to easy-to-use alarm clocks. Within a year, competitors had copied all of the new features.

The next year, in response to the cutthroat competition in the hotel industry, Hampton embarked on a culture transformation intended to differentiate its hotels from competitors by delivering superior guest experiences. Along the way, the team at Hampton learned important lessons about how to create and sustain a customer-obsessed culture:

  • Leverage executive support. The Hampton brand team began by making sure it had executive support for a culture transformation. That was smart. In previous research, I found that every successful culture transformation has had active executive support. The team at Hampton took advantage of having a strong advocate for customer focus in the form of Phil Cordell, who was the global head of focused service and Hampton brand management. He backed the transformation and created a new position, senior director of brand program development and integration, and appointed Gina Valenti to lead the transformation efforts.
  • Create a comprehensive training program. Hampton's franchisees and their team members needed guidance to ensure that guest experiences were consistent and reinforced Hampton's brand. That task is difficult enough for any company but is further complicated by the fact that Hampton does not own its hotels. The hotels are owned and operated by independent companies, acting as franchisees of the Hampton brand. That means Hampton has to persuade them to invest in new training, rather than being able to compel them to fund training. The brand team developed a comprehensive training and communication road map and made a compelling case for the value in terms of improved business and guest metrics of training team members at the hotels. For example, Hampton helped employees discover and build on their strengths. It used the strengths-finder methodology developed by Marcus Buckingham with all employees — in both the Hampton brand team and the partners working at the hotels. Hampton also trained hotel general managers to reinforce customer-obsessed behaviors. The training the brand developed around these behaviors spells out how often managers should perform each of nine critical behaviors, how big an impact it will have on team performance, and how customer feedback will increase as a result of that improved performance (see below).

  • Monitor and maintain customer focus over time. Hampton knows that the work to keep all team members focused on guests is never finished. In 2013, it revisited its training and communication plan and created new curricula modules to update the content. To ensure the continued success of its culture initiatives, the Hampton brand team measures the impact of its customer-obsessed culture. Hampton uses Net Promoter Score (NPS) to track whether its efforts to create memorable experiences are translating into guest recommendations. The firm also celebrates team members and managers who provide great guest experiences. Each month, Hampton recognizes employees who deliver great guest experiences with its "spirit of hampton" awards.

For more information about how Hampton created and sustains its customer-obsessed culture, read the full report. And please share your comments and questions below.