Joie de Vivre Engages Employees And Everyone Wins

I just read an interesting article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal called Hotelier Finds Happiness; Keeps Staff Checked In. It’s a story about how Joie de Vivre Hospitality improved the performance of its hotels by focusing on employees. Here’s the opening story…

Former management at the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco didn’t like to replace aging vacuums, despite staff complaints. After Joie de Vivre Hospitality Inc. took over operations in 2003, the new manager bought a vacuum for each of the 15 housekeepers — and replaces them every year.

This was just one example of how Hervé Blondel, the Hotel Carlton general manager, said he tried to treat workers as partners rather than employees. In addition, he did things like sitting in for front-desk workers on their lunch breaks and heeding staff suggestions to eliminate minibars, which generated little revenue at the midprice hotel.

My take: The founder and CEO of the firm, Chip Conley, definitely seems to understand the strong link between employee satisfaction and good customer experience. The article talks about a number of things that he does to engage employees like sponsoring parties and awards, arranging paid annual retreats for employees, hosting regular dinners with those who want to chat, and offering free classes on subjects from Microsoft Excel to English as a second language.

It looks like Joie de Vivre Hospitality is a great example of a key principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: “Treat customer experience as a competence, not a function.”

But that wasn’t what caught my eye the most in this article. What I really found amazing were the numbers that were quoted. Here’s what it said:

  • Joie de Vivre’s turnover is 25% to 30% annually, about half of the industry average.
  • Market Metrix estimates that each departure costs a midrange hotel about $5,000 in lost productivity, and recruiting and training a replacement
  • Joie de Vivre has 2,500 employees. About 90% are hourly workers who take reservations, clean toilets and perform other low-status jobs.

So lets do some math with those numbers. Reducing the turnover from 50% to 25% for its 2,250 hourly workers means that the hotel chain has 562 fewer employees leaving each year. That saves the company more than $2.8 million each year. And that doesn’t even include any revenue from the likely uptick in loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Wow! 

The bottom line: Engaging employees makes sense for customers and the bottom line!

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

One thought on “Joie de Vivre Engages Employees And Everyone Wins”

  1. Great article.

    Your readers might want to try a leading customer service review website where people share reviews with other users and with companies. Companies that are involved with and value customer service read Measuredup to keep up on what people are saying and to be able to improve customer service.

    It is free and easy to use.

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