Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview leaders, often CMOs or CEOs, that we deem simplifiers. In this Simplifiers interview I speak with Julie Cary, CMO at La Quinta.
La Quinta Holdings Inc. is a leading owner, operator and franchisor of select-service hotels. The Company’s owned and franchised portfolio consists of more than 885 properties representing approximately 87,500 rooms located in 48 states in the U.S., and in Canada, Mexico and Honduras.
MM: What does La Quinta stand for and how does it deliver on that promise every day?
JC: La Quinta is all about optimism and helping our guests feel the positivity they need to take on their day. We deliver on this brand promise through our guest experience, the service our employees deliver and the optimistic outlook our brand communicates.
MM: What role does simplicity play in delivering on that promise of optimism?
JC: Simplicity is a key part of our brand and our experience. We operate in the select service hotel segment, which people often choose because they want a straightforward experience that’s great for the price, so simplicity is key to what we deliver our customers. We keep the customer experience simple and frictionless every step of the way, whether a customer is booking a room or engaging with our loyalty program, so they have a positive experience at La Quinta and, in turn, wake up with optimism and motivation.
MM: How does your organization strive to create simple experiences?
JC: We want to make it easy and enjoyable to do business with La Quinta and, to this end, develop digital experiences that deliver ease. We created Instant Hold, which makes it easy for customers to hold a room up to four hours before check-in using only their phone number. Ready for You allows customers to request a time they’d like their room prepared by and Redeem Away! allows loyal La Quinta customers to use La Quinta points towards everyday purchases using their mobile phone. Additionally, guests can choose their room or check in on our app.
MM: How do you strive to conquer complexity within La Quinta?
JC: At La Quinta, we’ve simplified the employee experience with our Mobile Operating Platform (MOP), which comes in the form of a device like a mobile phone, that all room attendants use to make notes about their rooms. They use MOP to alert the front desk when a room is clean and if there’s a maintenance issue, they use it to send photos of the problem directly to the maintenance team. Additionally, La Quinta general managers lead daily huddles that guide staff on our vision for the guest experience while communicating a sense of collaboration.
La Quinta is also an exceptionally lean company with few levels, which naturally makes us simpler. To take full advantage of this, we actively cultivate an open culture in which people at all levels are accessible and conversational with everyone else in order to maintain the camaraderie that comes with being a small company.
MM: What benefits have you observed from operationalizing simplicity?
JC: Simplicity enables a lower cost structure. One example of simplicity at work for La Quinta is our exceptional employee base. We want to make coming to work the best part of our employees’ day because we know that our employees are the foundation of our differentiating customer experience. So we strive to make working at La Quinta a pleasant experience, where there’s true transparency among levels and doing your job well is made as easy as possible. Simplicity plays a crucial role in this. Our approach has paid off— for five consecutive years, La Quinta has been recognized by The Dallas Morning News as one of the top 100 best places to work in Dallas.
MM: How do you strive to keep things simple for your marketing team?
JC: It’s a continuous challenge to determine what we should focus on in this increasingly complex marketing climate. To keep things simple, I focus on the guest and guest experience. If it’s not helping the brand or guest experience deliver on what La Quinta does best, then it won’t make the cut.
MM: What’s the most recent simple customer experience that inspired you?
JC: I’m fond of browsing clothing options online, but since I’m hard to fit, it’s simplest for me to try clothing on in the store. Several of my favorite brands, such as Nordstrom and Talbots, have a feature I like called find it in store, which allows you to, when shopping online, find a store near you with that particular item. This allows me the best of both the online and brick and mortar experience.
MM: What do you think is the biggest mistake brands make in regards to simplifying?
JC: Straying from who your brand is and what it does best is a big mistake. In this time of incredible choice, brands need to make sure that they’re clear on what need they fill in consumers’ lives, and fill that need exceptionally well.
For example, at La Quinta our mission is to be a means for optimism to our customers by providing a simple and easy customer experience. We often decide against adding amenities or features which might seem valuable but don’t fulfill what guests want specifically from La Quinta. For example, we decided not to add a wide variety of food and beverage options because our customers don’t want a big restaurant or complex food experience in our hotels. Instead we offer a select group of simple foods in our Bright Side Market that deliver a great experience at a great price.
MM: What are the key indicators that simplicity is driving your business?
JC: One metric we track is conversion, which is when someone books a room online. As we’ve simplified our online booking process, conversion has increased measurably.
Another indicator we look to is our performance within Forrester’s Customer Experience in Hospitality study. One of the drivers they mention is ease of doing business, similar to simplicity of experience. This is an area that’s significant in our category and where we score exceptionally well.
MM: What does simplicity mean to you?
JC: Hans Hofmann captures the spirit of simplicity when he says, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
MM: What’s the top piece of advice you’d give to other brands trying to simplify?
JC: In order to accomplish simplicity, you must strive for it in everything you do. Don’t stray from what your brand uniquely delivers to your client.
MM: Thank you.
This is an ongoing Simplifiers series. See interviews with CMO at Lenovo, David Roman; EVP – Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Henry Gomez; CMO at Twitter, Leslie Berland; CMO at Blue Apron, Jared Cluff; SVP, Global Brand Management at American Express, Clayton Ruebensaal; EVP and Group President at Verizon Wireless, Ronan Dunne, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Cofra Holding Ltd, former CEO of C&A China, Lawrence Brenninkmeyer; CMO at The Recording Academy, Evan Greene; CMO at Mary Kay, Sheryl Adkins-Green; Head of Marketing at Home Centre, Rohit Singh Bhatia; SVP, CMO of Aflac, Gail Galuppo; SVP and CMO at Cambia Health Solutions, Carol Kruse, Managing Director of The Nature Conservancy, Geof Rochester, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Motorola Solutions, Eduardo Conrado, EVP; SVP, Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer at Abbott, Elaine Leavenworth, GE CMO, Linda Boff; McLaren Automotive Head of Brand Marketing, Stephen Lambert; Ascension Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Nick Ragone; Hertz CMO, Matt Jauchius; Direct Line Group Marketing Director, Mark Evans; McDonald’s CMO, Deborah Wahl; Jet.com President, Liza Landsman and VP Marketing, Sumaiya Balbale; Target CMO, Jeff Jones; Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman; Ally Financial CMO, Andrea Riley; Gannett CMO, Andy Yost; CVS Health CMO, Norman De Greve; Dunkin’ Brands CMO, John Costello; Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh; Southwest Airlines CMO, Kevin Krone; and Google CMO, Lorraine Twohill.
Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview: email@example.com