Thought leadership

Formerly, Marriott had been struggling at the lower end of the rankings, attaining a modest customer experience excellence score of 7.28, and sitting in 121st place out of all measured brands. However, in the last 12 months, it has soared into the UK top 20, showing aptitude across all Six PillarsTM of customer experience excellence, with an exceptional CEE score of 7.83. As such, Marriott stands as a shining example of the progress that can be made through diligent customer experience management.


One of its greatest improvements can be seen in the pillar of Personalisation. In 2013, the brand achieved 7.43, and yet in 2014 it had managed to boost this score to an excellent 8.22. Marriott's core values are undoubtedly part of this transformation. As it states on its own website: "Our core values make us who we are. As we change and grow, the beliefs that are most important to us stay the same – putting people first, pursuing excellence… acting with integrity and serving our world."


In terms of Personalisation, however, the brand is more specific. "We embrace change," it says. "We’re driven to continually challenge the status quo and anticipate our customers’ changing needs with new brands, new global locations and new guest experiences." This attitude is essential for success in this pillar, as Personalisation relies heavily on the degree to which a brand is able to adapt the customer experience depending on the specific needs and circumstances of the individual. And given Marriott's high score in this particular area, it is clear that it has not wavered in its commitment to flexibility.


Likewise, the brand is not shying away from innovation, despite the success of its customer experience transformation. One of its more unusual ideas is the creation of a global content studio, which was launched in September 2013. A far-cry from its room service and reservation roots, Marriott's latest venture was set up for the production of original video content, (namely short films), with the finished results being screened in Marriott hotels.


David Beebe, the brand's vice president of creative and content marketing, explained that, "today’s millennial audience does not engage with traditional advertising." The thinking, therefore, is that these filmic creations can help Marriott to build a more emotional connection with its customers.


It may be an unorthodox move for a hotel and leisure brand, but it's a strategy that appears to be working. In 2013, Marriott's score in the Empathy pillar was a modest 6.91, but in 2014 this score rose to a much more respectable 7.28. The brand's over-arching attitude has been a contributing factor to its success, and this attitude is manifest in the way it describes its hotels to its potential guests; Marriott tries hard to see matters from the customers' point of view. For example, phrases such as, "It’s just like home, but with a bartender," and, "[We] surround you with familiar comforts even when you’re far away," are indicative of a brand with an awareness of the anxieties that can accompany long-distance travel.


Most notable about Marriott, though, is its ability to achieve these things in a manner which minimises customer exertion. This is best illustrated in the pillar of Time and Effort where the brand scores a solid 8.09, which is a vast improvement on its previous score of 7.73. As Marriott states in the corporate area of its website, its business is fuelled at all levels by proven systems, support and services that provide the means for its hotels to operate efficiently and effectively, and thus deliver the "quality experience that guests worldwide have come to expect." It adds: "This – in concert with a tradition of attentive guest care, exceptional amenities, in-depth local knowledge and pre-eminent loyalty programs – empowers Marriott’s global brands to continually set industry standards around the world."


It is also setting standards in the UK CEE rankings, and Marriott's customer experience transformation is one that all brands can learn from. The task of climbing from 121st place to 17th over a 12 month period might seem Herculean, but it is far from unattainable. As this brand has demonstrated, a commitment to clear, customer-centric values can unlock a world of success, and provided Marriott adheres to the teachings of the Six Pillar SystemTM, it will likely reap more rewards in the years to come.        


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