Lessons of a Soda Jerk
My very first job was a soda jerk and that taught me a lot about customer service. It was very busy, especially on the weekends. Filling orders in a timely way was a challenge and great fun. I was thrown into the front lines and was stuck many times. When I got behind, it took a long time for me to build a banana split. This was back in 1952 at our Hot Shoppes Restaurant in Silver City, Utah. I worked as a soda jerk while I was a student at the University of Utah.
My dad would often come out to Utah and check on our restaurant. He'd check on everything. He was so detailed oriented. It wasn’t often expressed back then, but he was very “hands-on.” From the company’s founding in 1927, he believed in an unrelenting commitment to meet customer needs. That core value is one of the bedrocks of our corporate culture. Everything my father did was based on listening to the customers and giving them what they wanted.
Today, Marriott has grown to about 300,000 associates working in nearly 3700 hotels in 72 countries around the world. Most of our associates come in contact with our guests. They’ve been trained to listen and to try to give them what they want. In our training classes, that important encounter is called a touch point or impression. I call it good old customer service. It’s the number one reason for repeat business.
It’s also important to thank our customers. When I was a soda jerk, I’d add a little extra cherry or a little extra chocolate syrup to our customers' sundaes. I knew if they got a really good dessert, they would return.
I did something this past year that I haven't done for a long time. I threw a holiday party at my house for our global sales team and their top 150 clients. I wanted to let them know how much we appreciate their business. It was a small gesture although my wife, Donna, may beg to differ. She worked very hard making sure the house was decorated properly and the food was great.
You can never lose sight of why our business continues to thrive and grow globally – it’s the customer and a culture of service that strives for excellence.
So, no matter how large the business, listen to people. I remember how my father would sit down and talk with customers. Then, he’d go back in the back of the house, in the kitchen, and make changes to the restaurant menus or add something new to a hotel based on their suggestions.
At the customer appreciation party many customers told me that they talked to me on the phone when I called them on our annual customer appreciation day. Many remembered where they were, if they were out of the office, when they received the call as a lot of them were traveling. I told them in spite of my reassignment they would continue to hear from me in the future.
So leave a comment on your favorite hotel experience.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.