Frontline Communication: Key Amid COVID-19 Chaos

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Frontline Communication: Key Amid COVID-19 Chaos

By Brendan Gibney, Senior Director of Franchise Services at Choice Hotels Canada - 08/20/2020

Take a worldwide pandemic that has crippled the hospitality industry and add new, stricter than ever before, cleaning protocols that are mandatory for properties, and what do you have? An epic communications challenge.

As a 100% franchised company, Choice Hotels Canada, like many hospitality companies, is heavily reliant on traditional communications methods – whether it is in-person, via telephone or email – to convey vital operational content to its owners and general managers. From hotel-level initiatives to new brand guidelines, Choice Hotels Canada previously relied on email-first technology, which didn’t necessarily reach frontline staff.

Due to health concerns arising from COVID-19, Choice Canada launched an initiative to step up cleaning protocols at its properties — Commitment to Clean. The Commitment to Clean initiative builds on Choice Hotels’ long-standing cleanliness protocols and enhances the existing program with guidance developed in response to the pandemic, including industry-leading protocols related to deep cleaning, disinfecting, hygiene, and social distancing best practices. The initiative touches all operations of a hotel, including tasks not normally undertaken by the GMs, who are busy overseeing the entire operation. This includes frontline staff, who will ultimately be those following through on the Commitment to Clean promise.

We quickly recognized the communications challenge in getting every frontline worker up to speed on the new initiative. The answer was an employee-facing app, developed by Toronto-based Nudge Rewards. With its reliable communications platform, Choice Hotels Canada is quickly able to reach and engage with frontline workers – whether they were on the front desk, in maintenance, in housekeeping, or another role. Employees are directly updated on important operational details, allowing GMs to continue focusing on all the other important tasks they have to juggle. With topic-based channels and team collaboration functionalities, Nudge also enables staff to share ideas, feedback, best practices – and yes, even frustrations with corporate headquarters.

Over the last three years, Choice Hotels Canada has reaped significant rewards for opening up the flow of communication to frontline hotel workers. Franchisees across the country and their teams enthusiastically adopted Nudge and rely on its two-way communication channels to stay connected to one another, access important or time-sensitive information, and share strategies for exceeding guest expectations. With the help of Nudge, Choice Hotels Canada reliably reaches and engages the teams who bring their brand to life every day and enjoys the benefit of hearing first-hand how properties are delighting guests — from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Almost 700 associates at hotel franchise locations now use the app, and 86% of those users say they enjoy using it. A recent campaign conveying information about its award-winning rewards program, Choice Privileges (CP), was extremely successful, leading to heightened awareness, a boost in enrollment numbers, and increased recognition of CP Elite loyalty members. Choice Hotels Canada was able to share information in real-time with the employees championing the initiative, also known as the Choice Privileges Ambassadors. Nudge became the hub for this community, providing access to key information and resources for educating and motivating each property to reach program objectives.

Leveraging Nudge, Choice Hotels Canada expects to continue to reliably activate its Commitment to Clean initiative across the country, educating franchise partners on the new initiative and sharing strategies for meeting heightened expectations for safety and service in-location. Choice Hotels Canada is confident its ability to instill consumer confidence and empower the frontline workers who will play a vital customer-facing role as hotels begin to recover from this unprecedented crisis for the industry.

About the Author

Brendan Gibney is the senior director of Franchise Services for Choice Hotels Canada. He oversees the portfolio review process and is focused on the delivery of tailored services to Choice franchisees that continues to build equity in Choice brands while maximizing ROI for hotel owners. Brendan has nearly 25 years of hospitality experience with independent hotels and larger, well-known brands.