Johannesburg - Protea Hotels has been named the winner of the Hotels Category of the Ask Afrika Orange Index®, which uses a sampling of 33 000 interviews to rate South Africa's top customer service brands across 22 industries.The Ask Afrika Orange Index® reflects on customer service excellence across industries and is celebrating its 13th year this year. Its meticulous research and expert collaboration provides the foundation for in-depth discussions on service trends and diagnostics in the South African corporate and consumer landscape. Arthur Gillis, CEO of the Protea Hospitality Group, says this award is particularly significant because companies in the running are not interviewed themselves, nor do they submit any reference client lists for interview.Among the hotel groups in the running for the award were Tsogo Sun, City Lodge and Sun International.Gillis believes excellent service is the single biggest differentiator in any industry that deals with the public."The internet age has created two distinct types of customer interaction and any company in the service industry needs to ensure that they're brilliant at both."It's more difficult to make an impression when you're dealing with a client online because there is no personal interaction so you have to ensure your systems are fast, efficient and user-friendly to deliver on the customer needs and live up to your brand promise."That desire to stimulate greater and more relevant interaction was one of the main drivers behind our launch two months ago of our new brand.com sites, which we know have ticked those boxes."Gillis says hotel companies arguably have the toughest job ensuring client satisfaction, because their doors are always open and they are dealing with the public 24/7, 365 days a year."Our guest service at 23:00 has to be as good as our service at 08:00; a situation not found across too many other industries."Hospitality is a tough but rewarding industry; Protea Hotels succeeds at service excellence because we hire for attitude and train for skills. "Every aspect of the way Protea Hotels is run is based on adherence to the three Protea principles, which are simple: Respect for Human Dignity, The Best guest Service and In Search of Excellence. Our staff are focused on our purpose which is to acquire and maintain customers by anticipating, meeting and exceeding their expectations.