Web Exclusive: AskNicely introduces frontline success platform

AskNicely has launched the world’s first frontline success platform, which allows hospitality businesses to use feedback to enable employees to focus on changing behavior and make every service interaction better. Brands can recognize teams for a job well done and provide personal coaching. Hotel Business caught up with Aaron Ward, the company’s cofounder/CEO, to discuss how AskNicely can help the hotel industry.

How did the idea for AskNicely come about?
The inspiration for AskNicely came when I was sitting in a boardroom with several highly paid research consultancies. They each presented beautifully produced slide shows with studies on what customers thought about the experience. As I sat there listening to these extremely well-paid executives getting philosophical about a line on a chart, I suddenly felt embarrassed and ashamed, and thought, “I can’t be proud of this.” I considered what Uber was doing at that time and wanted to capture that same energy. I saw them collecting passenger feedback at the moment of interaction and making sure that feedback went directly to the driver to make the next experience better for the next passenger. From then on, I wanted to be a part of the movement to transform businesses into experienced-based models.

Why would a hotel/hospitality company need AskNicely?
Like other service businesses, hotels and hospitality companies differentiate themselves and compete on experience. Customer experience is based on a client’s interactions with frontline employees—meaning that the difference between an outstanding and an average experience is contingent on the service of frontline teams. The cofounder of Ritz-Carlton, Horst Schulze, believes that if his employees are just 5% better than his competitors, he wins hands down. However, the problem is not good workers vs. bad workers, it is excellent vs. poor tools that can empower team members to provide that exceptional service. Currently, too many hotel companies use CX software that doesn’t adequately support frontline teams. Plus, these employees are underappreciated and underserved. If hospitality brands want to provide an extraordinary experience for their customers, they need to offer better resources to their frontline people serving those clients.

Aaron Ward

How does it work?
It all starts with measuring what customers really care about and executing at the right time. Then, based on clients’ needs and company values, hotels can establish standards by which an excellent experience can get judged. These criteria are called service standards, and management must ensure these expectations get met by creating processes, systems and measurements. Similarly, the leadership must foster an environment where employees are inspired to deliver on these standards. To determine if frontline personnel are hitting the mark or lacking, it’s vital to leverage customer feedback. Hotels can’t let this critical information sit in the back office—it needs to get into the hands of the people that can make a difference. Empowering frontline workers through recognition and coaching will give them a voice and a means of connecting with their managers, allowing them to contribute to problem-solving. Finally, by utilizing feedback, hotels will discover insights into what is happening across their entire business, helping them spot and stop trends before they become issues and understand how to improve underperforming locations based on the success of the top ones.

How can AskNicely help the hotel industry during its current labor issues?
It all goes back to the earlier statement about empowering frontline teams and improving the experience. Employees must feel valued and essential to the company, which is possible through habitual recognition. Remember back to kindergarten, where we got rewarded with a gold star? When our managers say, “We’re lucky to have you on the team,” or “You did a fantastic job,” we get the same feeling we felt as children. The dopamine propels people to work harder; however, the issue is that teams don’t feel appreciated and aren’t motivated. Typically, frontline workers only hear feedback when they’ve done something wrong. For frontline teams to deliver a phenomenal experience for clients, they need to feel good about themselves. With AskNicely’s CX solution, hotels can regularly recognize employees’ achievements automatically through devices they use every day. Putting in place the technology to help them succeed will keep them engaged and eager to stay with their company.

Let’s say I am a hotelier that becomes an AskNicely client. What do I get?
You get the ideal way to measure and understand what your customers care about and what interests them. Our app goes into the pockets of each of your team members, giving them insights they’ll need to see how customers feel and then adjust accordingly. With this app, your frontline employees will also receive shout-outs from managers for a job well done and personal coaching. Every time they check the app, they’ll get a crucial two-minute dose of dopamine. Likewise, your managers and head office staff will have access to a dashboard with all the information concerning what is happening, allowing them to determine what is and isn’t working and where improvements are needed. Furthermore, you’ll get an AskNicely customer success manager to help you implement and run your program, including access to CX masterclasses.

If I’m an employee of an AskNicely client, how does the platform help me?
If you are an employee of one of our clients, our platform will provide you the tools and resources—such as coaching, recognition and feedback—you need to align your efforts with the company’s service standards. You, along with your frontline coworkers, have everything at your disposal to understand those standards and measure your performance against them. You should also feel empowered, motivated and engaged, enabling you to provide the best customer experience possible. Most importantly, the AskNicely platform will instill a sense of belonging, which correlates with commitment, retention and pride in the workplace. Belonging is a fundamental human need, with an EY survey finding that 39% of respondents feel that the strongest belonging comes from their colleagues checking in on them. AskNicely’s technology can help hotels foster those critical attitudes in their frontline workers.

How do you create the coaching material?
Our customers can create the coaching for their frontline workers based on the needs of each employee. The AskNicely approach is not one size fits all; it is unique to each individual and supported by customer feedback. Likewise, ideal coaching offers employees one small thing to work on at a time, rather than overwhelming them with multiple areas of improvement. Additionally, the coaching comes from the established service standards, including insights to achieve them. Coaching can also come from input from the manager or custom templates based on the service standards they want to deliver.

What are the costs associated with becoming an AskNicely client?
AskNicely has a fee for the platform, and then we charge per employee license. We think that the value of a single customer having a better experience will outweigh the small cost required for one employee to access the platform. Our fee also includes full support and a dedicated CSM. At AskNicely, we don’t believe in delivering technology without the resources for each customer to be successful.