Cross Training at Marriott Hotels Means Better Service

March 12, 2008

JWCancun-caption I always enjoy reading the comments on my blog.  Thank you for sending me so many neat comments.  Some of my favorite ones came from a post I did back in December where I asked you to tell me your great customer service stories.  One that really caught my eye was from Carol Lopez-Calleja.

Carol used to work in a hotel for a boss who was dedicated to making sure that the staff consistently provided great customer service.  She had very specific ideas about how to make this happen, and one of those was cross training her staff in very different departments.

I've found that cross-trained associates help a hotel provide a very high level of customer service.  And we encourage our hotels throughout our system to continue to cross train our people.  For instance, if a guest needs help from a bell person and only a front desk agent is available, if that front desk agent has been cross trained with the bell staff, they will be able to help the person to the right room and handle their luggage rather than making the guest wait.  The result is almost always a very satisfied guest who has received extra customer service.  The key point in customer service is having the right person at the right place with the right knowledge to handle that customer when they come through the door.

Our employees gain a lot of knowledge from multiple departments, which helps them develop their careers and move up the ranks more quickly.

We don't mandate cross training, but we sure do encourage it.  The management team at our Lincolnshire Resort in Lincolnshire, Illinois, is a real believer.  Let me tell you about Ondina Perez, who began working at that property's coffee shop eight years ago.  She had a lot of drive and a great desire to advance her career and she wanted to learn as much as she could.  Over the past eight years she has cross trained in many departments such as room service, guest services, the hotel restaurant and banquet department.  Currently, she's the property's housekeeping supervisor and her bosses think she'll make a great manager someday.

Our international hotels are very committed to cross training employees.  When Hurricane Wilma devastated Cancun in 2005, many of our associates were not able to show up for work.  But because the Area General Manager, Chris Calabrese, emphasized cross training, the hotel was able to get back on its feet very quickly.  Those that were able to come in to work were able to help out in many different areas in the hotels and ensure that things got back to normal just as quick as they could.

Carol never identified which hotel or hotel company she worked for, but no matter who her employer may be, I have to commend her boss, as well as all our general managers who practice cross training.  It gives our employees career opportunities and helps deliver great customer service and that's a great combination.

I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

Cross Training at Marriott Hotels Means Better Service

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Was great reading your feeling about cross exposures. Yes indeed it's something which is helping us a lot to stand up again from the financial crisis. We call it la polyvalence.

Team members have embraced this idea as they realised that staying in their shell will not lead them anywhere and the Management was willing to help them in a way.

It is a success which is working till now..

thanking you


The merits of cross training for the purpose of familiarization with other job duties to enhance overall performance, while inadvertently building further relationships in the organization by appreciating each others role unquestionably strengthens the teamwork and the individual. The Cross training exposure to other departments can also result in fantastic operational ideas through simply realizing the negative impact of one departments function can have on another. However, given the recognized value of cross training in other departments it is also important to recognize that identical value within the same department, other then a vacation replacement. Cross training or exposure to other functions, including the Leadership's responsibilities, within one's own department can result in the same operational benefits as cross training in other departments. The Leadership's responsibilities and daily routines within a department should be partnered in a cross training and/or an exposure process with direct reports, even if that is in the capacity as a simple observer at times for the learner. In essence the concept of cross training and/or the appropriate exposure with key personnel within ones own department should be a consideration also. It is sometimes easier to get out of the box then it is to share someone elses.

Dear Mr. Marriott,
I have a story to share with you. After a long voyage in the sea of hospitality and working for three chain hotels and two local hotels in Amman Jordan, the anchor of my ship was finally set at the breathtaking hospitality world of the Amman Marriott. For a period of two months at the AYS department, I trained and picked up the chic order taking of the room service department. However, little did I know that as those two months neared to their end, the winds of change would force me to set my sail again and travel to a different chain hotel and hospitality world. Although I got recruited at a renowned hotel, the Marriott skills still stood out as a dominant force within my conduct at my new work; especially when I had the capacity to go the extra mile in serving a senior British guest and her husband. As my present employers gave us the privilege of having some coffee during our work shifts at the operator desk and as the coolness of the morning November currents were at their best that day, I passed by the room service department to take with me a cup of hot coffee. One of my colleagues greeted me with a beautiful smile and a spirited good morning. He took the cup to fill it up. While I was waiting for my cup, my attention got suddenly diverted to another room service colleague who was talking on the phone. While he tried to maintain a confident tone of voice he had an annoyed and nervous face displayed. In a few moments the call ended and he wasn't happy with the results achieved form the conversation. I approached and inquiring if I could help him out. He told me that the guest had a sharp British accent while she spoke to him and having English as a second language, he was unable to understand her completely. In total contrast to my colleague English was a strong point for me as I was an American School Graduate. I took note of the room number, picked up my coffee, went back quickly to my department and called the guest from my operator desk. I inquired in a very courteous way if it would be alright the reconfirm the order with her. She was most understanding and politely accepted. I ended up taking a room service order for a complete American Breakfast for two people. I transferred the order to my colleague at the room service over the phone. As we finished he was extremely surprised at my capability in order taking, being also well known at the hotel, I humbly state of course, for my excellent operator skills with the guest. I confidently told him that I'm a Marriott trained hospitality worker. Mr. Marriott I felt proud of myself. I helped out a colleague that needed help; I serviced a guest professionally and felt good about my capability to give the guest the service she was expecting of me. I couldn't have done it without the order taking I picked up at the Marriott. Furthermore concerning Ms. Carol, and as a professional colleague in the hospitality field, thank you for commending this excellent woman to her boss. I'm ringing the bells of satisfaction all the way from Jordan about this excellent feature Mr. Marriott. Cross Training employees is a powerful tool in any hospitality firm. It boosts the person's trust in his self and in his work performance. Moreover it generates excellent guest feedback and makes the guests feel that he or she is in safe hands. I reason no person is ignorant of his household and its rooms. In the same way we work in our hotels 8-9 hours per day. It would be highly unacceptable for us to be ignorant of our work habitat.

Mr. Marriott,
Appreciate your organization as evidenced by the nearly 600,000 points in my account currently. I was delighted to see that Marriott is now offerring award stays at Vacation Clubs, particularly due to our expanding family. I must articulate one major concern, and that is the difficulty in determining availability. The online system will only allow me to look at specific dates, and apparently your reservation agents as well. Other hotel websites (Hilton for instance where I have 180,000 points with and utilize reward stays much more often) and a very user friendly site. If a particular date is not available, they have a flexible travel date link that illustrates a much broader option of travel. Appreciate your time! Thanks!

Mr. Marriott,
Your post about cross-training struck a chord with me. Cross-training is also very important in a submarine crew. You never want to be one man deep on the bench. If you get into a position where one person has all the corporate knowledge on how to accomplish a given task, and that person falls down a ladder or retires from the Navy, you can't have the ship stop functioning because of the loss of that one guy.
I first learned this from an inspection in which the inspection team said if our weapons officer fell down a ladder then we would no longer function as a warship anymore. The inspectors observed that he did everything and knew all the nuances about our weapons systems and did not delegate anything to any of his subordinates. The inspection soon turned the spotlight on the navigation department, pointed at the most senior and experienced quartermaster and said, you just had a simulated heart attack, go to bed, and made the ship demonstrate we could still safely navigate without him.
Later, when I became a Navigator on a submarine, I made sure to rotate my sailors through all the positions. Sure we had our A Team lineup with the best guys in each position, but we could always accommodate losing one or two guys from the team without severely impacting our functional ability.
Getting back to your post though, besides the coverage for unexpected personnel losses, cross-training the crew resulted in sort of a synergy just like in your hotel cross-training. Each guy knowing how his job fit into the bigger-picture mechanics of the operation helped him to proactively support the other members of the team and push information to them without being asked for it. I can imagine that it would make a hotel's operations appear seamless and fluent when your employees can blend across functional lines and not fall into bureaucratic stovepipes. As we say in the Navy, Bravo Zulu (BZ = well done) and keep up the good work on the cross-training.