Marriott International has more than 6,500 properties across 127 countries and territories. Stephanie Linnartz, Global Chief Commercial Officer, and Brian King, Global Officer, Digital, Distribution, Revenue Management, & Global Sales, sat down with Salesforce innovation evangelist Tiffani Bova to discuss how advanced technology is helping Marriott better serve its guests.
What makes an exceptional guest experience? In the past, hotel guests might have looked for plush bathrobes, a uniformed bellhop, or hotel and guest room design and décor features they could not find at home.
These days, customer expectations are changing and those traditional offerings are no longer enough. Although the principle of lavishing attention on guests is still at the core of their hospitality approach, many hotel brands are finding they must evolve their service to be increasingly personalized by adopting a more information-driven strategy.
Customer expectations are rising.
“How customers experience different digital interactions before they even get to their hotel matters to them,” says King. “We are constantly evolving our approach to meet those ever-changing expectations.”
Increasingly, hotel guests want the kind of instant, single-click experience they receive in other consumer-facing industries, where customer experiences are also enhanced by data-driven, predictive insights. Travelers have come to expect that interactions will be fast, convenient and relevant in the moment, and that brands will know and remember their preferences.
In response, Marriott is exploring ways to use advanced technologies to better anticipate and meet customers’ changing expectations.
“Marriott has a belief that digital is hospitable,” said King. “We believe a beautifully crafted digital platform designed around human insights allow us to create personalized experiences for our customers that are seamless, connected, and frictionless. We believe human connections are achieved by empowering our associates with the information they need to provide more personalized experiences at their fingertips. Nothing delights a guest more than being recognized for their loyalty and being genuinely cared for when they are traveling.”
Guests are demanding personalization and speed.
Marriott is also finding that customers now expect that any personal information they share with the company will be put to good use to customize their interactions. As Linnartz put it: “Guests are willing to give us information about themselves, and they expect that we use it to enhance their experience. Whether it is preference in pillow type or recommendations for local experiences once they’ve arrived at the destination, they expect us to leverage the information they’ve provided to personalize their experience and anticipate their needs. That is how we build loyalty and strengthen the relationship between our company and our guests.”
Advanced technologies are enabling the company to be even more thoughtful about how its people, powered by insights, can deliver outstanding hospitality.
“When someone checks into one of our hotels, we want to be able to wow them,” said Linnartz. “We want to be able to say, ‘Hello, Henry — welcome! We know you just flew in from Dubai, where you stayed at our property last night. We’ve put a lovely amenity in your room to help you get over your jet lag. We also know you love running, so we’ve mapped out a great route that you might want to explore.’ Our digital platform is the tool that allows us to have all that information in the hands of our front-desk staff, so we can pull off that kind of experience.”
For King, speed is another crucial differentiator. “We know that if the Marriott mobile app slows down by one second at the time someone is trying to make a reservation, our conversion rate could drop,” he explained.
 A 360-degree customer view is crucial.
With a wealth of relevant information guests have volunteered about their preferences, Marriott can fine-tune messaging around products, promotions, and services, so they’re customized to meet the guest’s expectations. A recent study by Salesforce Research even shows that 79 percent of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for contextualized interactions in which they’re immediately known and understood.
Marriott is also working toward being able to operationalize all its insights in real time.
“Maybe our guests are on a business trip, or maybe they’re taking a family vacation,” King said. “We must know how they interact with our brands, based on whatever travel mission they’re on … Now, we have the right information at the right time, and it can be delivered to our associates in the moment of any customer interaction.”
Crafting seamless experiences is key.
Marriott is working toward deploying customer loyalty apps to offer curated experiences, such as recommended activities based on shared interests.
At the same time, it is widening its use of channels to engage customers through platforms like live messaging and business chat apps. In this way, the company is better able to respond to customers’ expectations that they will be able to use multiple devices and touchpoints throughout their journey with a brand.
King described a recent interaction with a customer who used the Marriott mobile app’s chat feature to inquire about booking a stay in a hotel in Washington, D.C. “They asked if this particular hotel had a spa. It didn’t, but instead of saying no, our associate was able to offer The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown Spa, which was only two miles away. And the beauty of that moment was the associate was able to drop a location pin and submit the spa menu right away, and the customer could select their spa treatment instantly,” he said.
As Linnartz put it: “Hospitality is a high-touch business, and technology is an enabler. That’s why we say it’s about high tech and high touch. People are critical to this business, and they always will be.”
Tiffani Bova is the global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce and author of the forthcoming book Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business
This is the third of a series of articles on the future of customer experience. The first article is Customer Personalization Faces Trust Crisis; the second is How Amazon Succeeds by Having “Divinely Discontent” Customers.