The customer experience strategy Marriott uses to earn loyalty

How Marriott’s Personalized Customer Experience Strategy Encourages Customer Loyalty

Back in 1927, husband and wife John Willard and Alice Sheets Marriot started a humble root beer stand. With this, they founded Marriott International. By 1957, the couple implemented a new customer experience strategy and expanded their root beer stand into a profitable chain of restaurants. Eventually, they moved business into the hotel and hospitality industry. 

As of 2016, Marriott International created the world’s largest hotel company. With 5,700+ properties, they offer more than 1.1 million rooms across 30 brands in 110+ countries.

What takes Marriott from a root beer stand to a global leader in the hospitality industry? From the start of the brand to now, Marriott excels in customer service. Most importantly, they meet the needs of customers to deliver a seamless experience. And to go even further, their customer experience strategy focuses on customer delight.

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In recent years, Marriott rose above many competitors. Forbes magazine ranked Marriott number 18 out of 100 in its list of “The World’s Most Innovative Companies.” They’re known for personalized service that encourages customers to stay loyal. What’s more? it’s paid off. Marriott’s newest loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, has over 120 million members.

We’re crushing on Marriott’s customer experience strategy and you should too. Let’s take a look at several specific ways Marriott delivers an exceptional customer experience.

1. Marriott curates a seamless, personalized experience.

Even in the hotel & hospitality industry, customer expectations are changing. It’s no longer just about which hotel offers a plush bathrobe or has a pretty lobby. Customers also care about all the digital interactions before they even get to their hotel. Customers expect every industry to deliver the same personalized, instant, data driven experience. Marriott meets the challenge.

Through Marriott’s partnership with Salesforce, the company gives Marriott employees all the relevant customer information they need. This way, any team member  can deliver a personalized experience during every step of the customer journey. They see an accurate, 360-degree view of each guest’s profile, so they can continue a conversation with a customer from any channel. From any Marriott computer, customer history and customer interactions are accessible.

Here’s an example of how Marriott creates a personal experience:

Mary is a member of Marriott’s loyalty program. Her trip isn’t for another three weeks. But she can still use live chat to connect with an associate in Marriott’s customer engagement center to make a special request for her stay. She needs two stiff pillows and will need to keep her bags at the front desk following her check out time. No problem! The agent logs her request and she’s all set.

Then, a day before her check in, she goes into the Marriott Mobile app. She adds one more request: she’ll need dry cleaning service as soon as she checks into her room. When she arrives at her hotel, her Marriott front desk employee knows of all her requests, and is prepared to have her dry cleaning picked up.

Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott’s Global Chief Commercial Officer, describes it best: 

“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.”

Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott’s Global Chief Commercial Officer

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2. Marriott’s customer experience strategy uses data to inform decisions.

Marriott needs to use data to deliver such a personal and seamless experience. They understand the importance of knowing their customers. And, they’re deliberate about using data to refine their customer experience.

Through direct feedback in surveys, Marriott learns from their customers. One example of this is shared by Marriott’s Global Chief Information Officer Bruce Hoffmeister: “We ask them to rank different travel scenarios and tell us what they’d be willing to pay more for or travel a bit further for, which helps us anticipate their needs.”

Tracking data from every customer interaction helps Marriott build a customer experience strategy that gives customers what they actually want. 

3. Marriott offers a full travel experience.

With the launching of Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott’s new rewards program, Marriott cares about more than giving you a bed to sleep in for a few nights. They want to offer a full travel experience.

Customer experience isn’t just a one-off, single interaction with the brand. It’s the collection of all the micro-moments customers experience with Marriott over time. When I book a hotel stay, most companies are more concerned about the three nights I’ll be staying with them than my experience before or after. But, Marriott Bonvoy offers customers expert recommendations and curated activity lists that are unique to them. It’s personalization at its finest.

Marriott customers can get information on local experiences available around any Marriott location. Let’s say I am traveling to Siena, Italy (I wish!). On their website, I can find available experiences (at the price point I’m looking for) near my hotel. A cooking class and wine tasting for two please!

What’s more? Marriott takes fast responses seriously. They let customers find and book experiences on Facebook Messenger instead of only by phone. Over Facebook Messenger, customers get a location-based recommendation of Marriott activities. Then, they can pay for the activity from their desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

4. Marriott cares about their employees.

We’ve said it before — happy employees are key to happy customers. Marriott’s success illustrates how it’s true. Marriott not only has a loyal customer base, but many loyal employees, too. 

Marriott follows five core values:

  1. Put people first.
  2. Pursue excellence.
  3. Embrace change.
  4. Act with integrity.
  5. Serve our world.

For example, According to David Rodriguez, executive vice president, Marriott’s success comes from the first core value: Put People First. Marriott focuses on the physical, financial, and emotional well-being of their employees. They empower employees to live the company’s core values inside and outside of the job. Attention to this value and uniting purpose has even inspired employees to pour into the local communities around the hotels.

They invest in training and development and give employees opportunities to grow with the company instead of having to leave to find growth. And with employee surveys, Marriott can measure their employee engagement to see how it impacts business. Turns out, their engaged employees are more productive, have fewer problems with guests, and stay with the company longer.

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5. Marriott stays focused on driving customer loyalty

Retaining an existing customer is ultimately cheaper and more valuable than acquiring a new customer. In fact, the average “loyal” customer spends 67% more in months 31-36 with a brand than in the first six months. Marriott understands that customer loyalty is about more than giving customers one good hotel experience. Instead, the goal is for that customer to always choose Marriott when they travel. That’s customer loyalty.

Marriott has a built-in method for creating loyal customers. Their rewards program encourages customers to keep using their services. But it also gives Marriott a way to care for their customers. When a customer becomes a loyalty member, they can personalize their experience. Through the membership’s online community, Marriott Insiders, Marriott employees talk to members regularly. They learn which benefits they prefer and members share what would make their experience better. 

Further, Marriott rewards loyal customers to keep them coming back. Loyalty members earn points and can redeem them for free nights at hotels. They can access simple mobile check-ins, earn gifts over time, and unlock special member rates.

Overall, Marriott excels in customer care. Through their customer experience strategy, they consistently meet (and often exceed!) customer expectations and delight customers with every interaction.

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