“The thing is, you’re never done learning,” says Michael Kuenne, in our conversation about aligning to meet customer expectations, improving quality assurance, and the importance of hiring. Michael is the Chief Customer Experience Officer at Extended Stay America, a hotel chain across the nation that offers guests the opportunity to book their stay for a day, a week, or a month. Though Michael has only been in this role for a year, his exposure to different facets of work in financial services and technology consulting had a profound impact on the way he currently views his work.
Michael’s experience with technology consulting helped him develop an appreciation for developing processes and thinking analytically, which are useful skills when it comes to leading a customer-focused initiative. Before stepping into his role as CCXO, he held other positions within the organization and even spent time living in one of the Extended Stay America hotels, which provided him with useful, first-hand experience. His front-facing and backend experience helped him assume some of the responsibility of what the hotel needed in order to function with operational excellence.
Develop Reliable Customer Experience
“I have this little tagline that, you know, people are probably sick of hearing me say, but it’s quality as a culture and not a checklist,” says Michael when it comes to the importance of quality assessment at Extended Stay America. He shares that quality assessment was one of the first tasks that Michael took on as CXO because he was familiar with some of the operational challenges that already existed.
Michael explains that nurturing reliability with the Extended Stay America experience was a key component in improving customer satisfaction and expectations. He and his team worked with a third party to provide external assessments of the existing quality assurance program. Through working with an outside company, Michael shares that they were able to make some adjustments, repackage their program and then educate and train employees on the process. He says that this is still a work in progress, but it’s critical to developing the culture of quality.
Determine How to Align Expectations
Since Extended Stay America isn’t your typical hotel that provides entertainment amenities, Michael tells us that they have to do their best to align expectations with that of their customer. Though the brand’s preference is to host extended stay customers, Michael explains that he understands there are also transient customers who book for short periods of time. As with most businesses, there is a realization that you serve different segments of customers and will need to determine how to meet the differing expectations.
In addition to improving the hotel experience and communications around benefits and amenities, Michael shares that they also work on aspects of the experience that drives NPS scores, such as associate interactions. He sees that friendliness of associates is important to guests, especially since this is a chain where guests and associates are more likely to have consistent interactions due to extended stays. Michael shares that Extended Stay America associates spend time developing relationships with guests and these personal connections make a big difference.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
“This isn’t just about my professional career title, it’s just about how I feel about being a lifelong learner is, don’t be afraid to take those new opportunities when they come up, even if they don’t necessarily fit within your plan […] The thing is, you’re never done learning. I know, it’s cliche, and certainly, I’m not the first person to say that. But it matters. And I think if you look at a lot of successful people, when I say successful, successful and happy that the people that you want to follow on LinkedIn, you know, the people who you want to listen to their podcast, right? The people who are passionate about what they do, I think, more times than not, you’ll see that they may have taken a non traditional path, but they were open to you know, some new opportunities when they presented themselves.”
About Michael KuenneMichael has been Chief Customer Experience Officer at Extended Stay America since January 2020 and is part of the organization’s leadership team with responsibility for Quality Assurance, Guest Relations & Brand Reputation, Brand Standards, Brand Programs, Training and Enterprise Procurement.
Previously, Michael held multiple leadership positions in the company’s Technology, Operations and Human Capital organizations. Prior to joining Extended Stay America, he held various roles in the Technology practice for The North Highland Company, as well as PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
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