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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | November 22, 2010

Jack Adler, Loews Hotels, meetings conventionsA few weeks ago, Loews Hotels made an unusual move and rolled out a service guarantee for meeting planners. Simply put, the Loews Service Guarantee states that upon the signing of a contract with any Loews property, the planner is immediately given a direct telephone line to Jack Adler, the chain's president and chief operating officer. I immediately envisioned Mr. Adler sitting regally behind an office desk, one eye on an oversized white telephone, waiting for its big red button to light up -- sort of like in those 1960s Cold War movies.

Service guarantees are not new to the hotel industry. Radisson Hotels Worldwide piloted one in 1998, when 28 of its then 118 hotels signed on with the promise, "Our goal at Radisson is 100 percent guest satisfaction. If you are not satisfied with something, please let us know and we'll make it right, or you won't pay." Eventually, all 118 properties took part in that guarantee. Two important things separate Radisson's program from Loews, however. First, Radisson desperately needed to bring some stamp of quality and consistency to its product, because its growth-by-any-means strategy over the previous years had resulted in a confused brand image. Second, hotels signing on to take part in the service guarantee were required to first complete a rigorous employee training program. Not so for Loews. It already has a solid brand image in place, predicated in large part by its longtime commitment to top-notch employee training. In fact, over the last four years the company invested more than 264,000 training hours in its employees and is consistently ranked in Training magazine's top 75 companies. So why a need for the guarantee?

Loews Ventana Canyon, hotel meetings events"We challenged ourselves to answer the question: What makes us stand out in a crowded market?" says Felicia Fisher, senior vice president, sales and strategic planning for Loews Hotels. "Any company can comp a reception or reduce a bill. By having a direct line to Jack, we are underscoring each hotel's accountability to deliver a successful meeting at the best possible deal. Should there be a concern so great that it can't get resolved by the general manager, clients will be able to voice their concerns to Jack directly. Although, no one truly expects his phone to ring."

Then another image  popped into my head, that of Jack Adler as the Wizard of Oz, pulling the strings from behind a heavy curtain, all but inaccessible. Was this service guarantee so special because getting an audience with Adler normally is next to impossible? Not really, says Fisher, who adds that Adler is very much a hands-on president and COO, just not typically in touch with meeting planners on a daily basis. In fact, she says, "When he was approached with the idea, he jumped at the chance to be on the front lines delivering the Loews brand promise. But he is also confident his phone won't ring!" And what's more, says Fisher, Loews is so confident in its ability to deliver on service, the guarantee isn't running for a limited time or as some sort of promotional offer for new business. "It's now an integral part of the Loews' brand promise," she says. And planners, if any of you actually do end up having to make that call to Mr. Adler, do let us know how it went.