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Q&A: John Greenleaf, Global Head, DoubleTree

John Greenleaf is an integral part of the Hilton family. He kicked off his Hilton career as the VP of global brand marketing for DoubleTree by Hilton, and then took over as VP of global brand performance support for Hilton Hotels and Resorts. Now, as the global head of DoubleTree, Greenleaf reflects on his experience in the hospitality industry and cites a considerable customer service faux pas to avoid.

What’s your favorite destination and why?

The most fascinating one I’ve been to was Shimla, India. It’s a 19th century English colony in the mountains in India. It has historic buildings and narrow streets; there are open-air markets up and down the side of the mountains, monkeys in the trees and in the streets. It’s truly a fascinating and exotic place that I just found of interest when I was there.

What was your dream job when you were a kid?

I was going to be a doctor. As with many people, college changes decisions, but I’m thrilled with the way things turned out.  What’s the most important customer service lesson that you’ve learned to date? Listen first and listen well.

What is the top customer service faux pas that you’ve seen?

I think what some services have done that has not worked is try to implement programs that are in the business’s best interest that don’t necessarily match the customers’ needs or wants. That really gets to the importance that we’re doing our best, whether through research or face to face, to listen to our guests.

If you had to give a young marketer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Look and listen to as many different brands, categories, and markets as you can as you learn. In my experience many people get on a brand or in a category and [don’t] use other categories or brands as learning experiences [that are] in entirely different companies or different markets. The more you can learn from and use as case studies other examples—be they successful or unsuccessful—the better able you’ll be to be truly creative and find unique approaches and solutions to issues that you face in your own [world].

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