Starwood Hotels & Resort is no stranger to quality mangagement. In the most recent year, Tarwod properties around the globe held approximately 700 spot on Condé Nast’s Gold List of the world’s best places to stay. Its spa and golf program have consistently benn ranked among the best in the world.
At Starwood, processes and programare driven by the work of its team of Six-Sigma experts, called Black Bells. Developed by Motorola more than 20 years ago, Sig-Sigma is a comprehensive and flexible system for achieving, sustaining, and maximizing business success by driving out defects and variability in a process. Starwood uses the five steps DMAIC process: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control.
Clearly, understanding customer needs is paramount. To this end, Starwood collects data from customers on its Guest Satisfaction Index survey, call the “Voice of Consumer”. The survey cover every department guest may have encountered during their stay, from the front desk and hotel room, to restaurants and concierge. Past survey indicate that how well problems were resolved during the guest saty was a key driver in high guest satisfaction scores. To increase its score for problem resolution, the Sheraton brand of Starwood launched the Sheraton Service Promise program in the United and Canada. The program was designed to give guest a single point of contact for reporting any problems. It was intended to focus associate (employee) attention on taking care of service issues during the guest’s stay within 15 minutes of first receiving notice.
However, although scores did increase, they did not increase by enough. Consequently, Sheraton brought its Six-Sigma team to see what it could do. The team employed the basic Sig Sigma model of define-measure-analyze-improve-control to guid its work. To define the problem, the Sig-Sigma team worked with data collected and analyzed by an independent survey organization, National Family Opinion. The study indicated that three key factors are needed in problem resolution: speed, empathy, and efficiency. All three must be met in order for the guests to be satisfied and the Sheratonm Service Promise fulfilled. Then the team looked at the specific processess that affected performance: telephone operators’handling of resquest, procedure for determining who to call, engineering workload, and so on. The work identified in each area was measured. For example, call logs were established to track speed, empathy of associate handling the call, and efficiency of the staff charged with fixing problem. The data collected were analyzed to determine why guests’ problems were not resolved within 15-minute standard. Pareto charts and other techniques were used for the analysis.
The final step involved control and monitoring to be sure that the improved processess developed by the Sig-Sigma team became part of the property’s culture, and that they were not abandoned after the team’s work was finished. Tracking continues for 12 to 18 months, with monthly feedback to the manager or department head responsiblle for the improvement of the Sheraton Service Promise program. The improvement effort also receives visibility through the company’s intranet so the rest of the organization sees the benefits-including service and financial performance-and can use the experience to improve their own operations.
- Implementing Sig Sigma takes consideration time and commmitment from an organization. In terms of top-down commitment, measurement systems to track progress, tough goal setting, education, communication, and custormer priorities, evaluate the degree to which Starwood successfully addressed each with the redesign of the Sheraton Service Promise program.
- How might the new Sheraton Service Promise process help Starwood avoid the four costs of poor process performance and quality (prvention, appraisal, internal failure, and external fairlure).
- Starwood is the first major hotel brandto commit to a dedicated Sig-Sigma program for improving quality. Why might an organization be reluctant to follow this type of formalized methodology? What other approaches could Starwood or its competitors use?