How Marriott International uses technology to delight its guests
MARRIOTT International has built a fantastic reputation in the hospitality industry over the past few decades.
The company now has more than 7,000 properties across the world and has a large pool of proud customers and fans. While Marriott’s growth speaks volumes about the business, it’s important to emphasize that the company has definitely made a smooth transition into the digital age.
True, the company did suffer a data breach earlier this year, but it handled once the issue came to light, Marriott handled it better than many other organizations that have fallen prey to cybercriminals.
In a short few months, the company has moved past the breach, retained the trust of its customers, and continues to take on new projects to delight and wow customers with technology.
Tech Wire Asia recently caught up with Marriott International APAC VP of Digital, Loyalty, and Portfolio Marketing Alan Tsui to learn about the company’s perception of customer experience (CX) and the role that it sees technology playing in its efforts to improve and transform the business.
“As we slowly transit to a digital and technology-focused world, Marriott International is driven to adopt innovative and digital capabilities in what we do.
“At Marriott International, we speak to the passions and interests of today’s travelers with new, transformative experiences across the Asia Pacific.”
Tsui, who will be making a presentation at Innovfest Unbound in Singapore, highlighted that innovation has always been part of the Marriott story.
From testing out IoT guestroom labs, developing experimental partnerships with Placepass for Marriott Tours and Activities, to venturing into the home rental initiative with Homes and Villas by Marriott International, the company has continuously sought to innovate the guest experience.
“Technology plays a key role in driving connection and convenience in the hospitality industry. A majority of hotel guests are open to the idea of new and advanced technologies that enhance their experience and improving guest experience has always been top-of-the-list for Marriott International.”
However, Tsui is quick to remind us that as a hospitality company, technological advancements will never replace human interaction. Rather, it is expected to free up hotel staff to better serve customers through more personalized experiences.
“Customer experience is innately about human to human connection, and the sum total of all the touchpoints – online and offline, engagements and exchanges a customer makes with us from start to end.
“Marriott International’s customer experiences are driven by technology and it’s the backbone of what and why we are constantly developing. It is not about introducing technology to replace people but allowing our customers to interface with us the way they want to.”
Sum of the parts greater than the whole?
Tsui revealed that Marriott International focused on two components in CX – the physical and digital aspects.
Based on the conversation, although the split seems to make it easy to create smarter CX goals, the overall idea seems to provide incremental benefits as a whole as the organization focuses on critical aspects of both components.
Physical CX includes the rooms, cleanliness of the rooms, and quality of the other amenities such as food, pools, and exercise rooms.
Every effort is made to ensure guests staying at a Marriott property are provided with an authentic experience and feel as comfortable and satisfied as possible during their stay.
“The digital aspects of CX include the process of booking a room, personalized mobile experience, and in-app satisfaction. In today’s world of digital engagement, it is important that our customers are happy and satisfied while using our digital platforms before, during, and after their stay with us.”
Smart devices are now everyone’s indispensable travel companion, and more and more travelers increasingly expect to have their needs satisfied using their mobile phone.
“We are now using mobile to introduce and revolutionize the next generation of customer service to travelers worldwide, delivering a far more personalized and anticipatory stay experience.”
For example, the Marriott Bonvoy app Tsui introduced us to, enables customers to search and book hotels across Marriott’s portfolio, engage in mobile check-in, use mobile key (in select hotels) to enter the room, submit mobile requests for service and amenities, and chat with representatives before, during, and after their stay.
The app also uses chatbots to simplify the travel experience enabling guests to ask questions, make simple requests, and receive instant responses.
A recent report by Accenture provided some key tips to companies that wanted to ensure they could survive disruption. One of them was “finding partners to scale with”. Marriott International seems to understand that.
Tsui revealed that the hospitality giant has partnered with companies such as Alibaba’s Tmall and Fliggy to discover innovative opportunities for growth and success.
“Utilizing Alibaba’s powerful marketing tools like the databank, Marriott International pioneered the hotel industry’s first Tmall Super Brand Day, offering premium experiences and calendar products for different consideration phases.”
To meet expectations of Chinese customers who are constantly being greeted by facial recognition systems across the country, Marriott International also piloted Alibaba-owned Fliggy’s innovative facial recognition check-in technology at two Marriott International properties in China – Hangzhou Marriott Hotel Qianjiang and Sanya Marriott Hotel Dadonghai Bay.
Marriott is clearly doing everything it can to succeed, but it doesn’t seem like Tsui or his colleagues are prepared to stop throttling their innovation engine.
The hospitality company is keen to delight and wow customers every day, and they’re not afraid to experiment with new ideas or technologies. The future belongs to companies like Marriott.
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