Marriott on the Move



Lessons of a Soda Jerk

Posted: January 17, 2012 02:44:56 PM

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.  Hot Shoppes counter

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. HolidayParty

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.

Listen to blog Lessons of a Soda Jerk 


Posted By: Xin Jin (01/17/2012 at 03:45 PM)

Mr Marriott, i'm so addicted to the marriott culture and corporate philosophy that Mr Willand Marriott and you established and spreaded to every corner of marriott hotel. You always show your gratitude to not only your customers but your employees. i feel a lot about it and i think that is the way of doing business. i'm a hotel management student and i will do my final year placement next year, hopefully i could be placed in a marriott hotel. if i could not, it doesn't matter,because sooner or later i will work for marriott.

lastly, it's an honor to read your blog weekly and i will keep this habit going. you take good care of your self so does Mrs Marriott

Posted By: Jim (01/17/2012 at 05:17 PM)

No offense Mr. Marriott, but who uses the words soda jerk anymore?!?!

Posted By: Robert (01/17/2012 at 05:23 PM)

Your Hot Shoppe Sundae's sounds pretty darn good but our stay at the Paris Marriott Champs-Elysees was the cherry on top!

Posted By: Ivonne Wise (01/17/2012 at 05:32 PM)

Hi Mr. Marriott,

I stayed at your Hollywood Beach Marriot for my birthday on September 18 and received a complimentary wine, cheese, crackers and fruit tray after I told the front desk that the 18th was my birthday. I have stayed at many of your hotels but will always remember that special attention that touched my heart. I was just reminded of the occasion as I read your analogy about the extra syrup or extra cherry. As soon as I can I dream of being back at the Hollywood hotel enjoying a few days in the sun.

Thanks for such beautiful property.

Ivonne Wise

Posted By: Mike (01/17/2012 at 05:33 PM)

In 1999 my wife and I along with our two teenage daughters had been on a road trip to Orlando where we stayed at a Marriott resort. On our way back home we planned a few days stop in New Orleans. We had booked a hotel just outside the French Quarter with a national chain and our first night there was a horror story. The floors were uneven, there were people walking in the hall all night and the fire alarms woke us up several times. By morning my daughters were in tears and we planned to make that our last night ever in New Orleans and head home. While they got ready to leave, I took a walk around the French Quarter that morning and fell in love with New Orleans. I walked into the Marriott on Canal Street and explained what we had gone through. They could not have been more helpful. We got a great room there for the next two nights and had a memorable time in New Orleans. My wife and I have been back a couple of times since and just booked a long weekend there in May. Since that trip we became vacation club owners at four Marriott resorts and Marriott is always our first choice when we travel, which we do four or five times a year now. Thanks for having such great people!

Posted By: PJM (01/17/2012 at 05:52 PM)

In addition to customer feedback it is also important for management, and or franchisees to listen to the associates. The associates in the front line know what the guests want or have been accustomed to especially if those guests are returning, Marriott Rewards guests. Change is good but when a returning guest expects their favorite menu item and it is no longer available but in another venue of the property then to me IT IS available to the guest and the order should be filled as requested!

Posted By: Hank Mancini (01/17/2012 at 06:06 PM)

My very favorite hotel experience was about ten years ago at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina. Our family was checking in and the front desk associate asked if there was anything else he could do for us. I jokingly said "a bottle of Champagne would be nice." A few minutes after getting to our room there was a knock at the door. A room service waiter was there with a chilled half-bottle of Champagne. That absolutely "blew me away"! I will never forget that and I have also related that experience to friends and colleagues many times. As a follow-up, I wrote letter to the hotel GM commending the associate. He wrote back telling me that he had personally thanked the associate and had also read my letter in a staff meeting!

Posted By: Ken Silverberg (01/17/2012 at 06:20 PM)

One of my favorite Marriott experiences was finding an employee (housekeeping staff?) on the night shift at the East Side Marriott in NYC who put the cuffs in a new pair of pants at midnight. Seems I forgot the pants when I packed -- had to buy a new suit at one of those cheap suit places on Seventh Avenue, and had to be properly dressed for a morning business appointment. I'm still a regular at that hotel when I go to NYC.

Posted By: Bill Helriggle (01/17/2012 at 06:36 PM)

We miss the along the route that you had previously offered. When traveling we would use that all the time.

Hopefully you will find a replacement for that service.

Thanks for listening and we enjoy your blog.

Posted By: Syed T. A. Naqvi (01/17/2012 at 08:13 PM)

Mr. Marriott Sr. teamed with you, offered my favorite desert, the Hot Fudge Ice Cream Cake with cream and cherry on top, at the Hot Shoppes around the Washington DC area, had no fear of competition from us at least.
Turning to my recent favorite hotel experience which was at the Marriott (JW and Casa Magna) in Cancun, Mexico. From the great pick up followed by smooth check in experience to anticipating what may be needed in my usual suite to round out service with the utmost attention to detail by the world’s best waiter. This combination property does the very best to make stay comfortable and make me feel at home. I cannot think of a better customer service managed by my fellow Washingtonian Chris. Syed T. A Naqvi, Platinum Emeritus

Posted By: WILDER SAVANY (01/17/2012 at 08:15 PM)

I will say, thank you Mr. Marriott for helping a lot of people getting a needed JOB>
God Bless you.

Wilder Savany

Posted By: Candi Crandall (01/17/2012 at 09:52 PM)

We were in Paris France,November 2010 to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. I arrived healthy and walking. Within 2 days due to a health issue called EB with my feet, I had to resort to a wheelchair. Hans the concierage took us under his direct supervision and made what could have been a disastrous short trip into the trip of a lifetime. Hans made sure we received priority treatment by every vendor, hotel employ, taxi he was just amazing. Then we were scheduled to continue on to the Marriott at Monaco. Well we thought that would end our trip early and have to be cancelled. Well low and behold once again Hans came through for us. He arranged the hotel to have available to us at no additional charge a van shuttle to take us wherever and whenever we needed. Once again the concierage worked out in advance with each restuarant and vendor so that we could actually see the countryside. They too had a wheelchair available for our stay. I don't think we will ever forget the kindness we experienced from every single Marriott employee all the way through the trip. We only stay Marriott for this very reason. Thank you for your attention to detail in the superb training you have provided each and every employee. They are amazing. This has been true at all of the various properties owned by Marriott including Hotel, JW, Courtyard and timeshare which we own.

Posted By: Paul Green (01/18/2012 at 12:11 AM)

My wife and are are Marriott Destination owners and the reason is exactly what Mr. Marriott explains. Marriott has never let us down yet. Customer service is fantastic and that is important. Why else would we spend $50,000 on a Marriott timeshare and then upgrade (this week) and buy another $16,000 in points? It is all based on trust of Marriott by customers. I try to copy the Marriott approach in my own business. Paul Green

Posted By: MellaDee York (01/18/2012 at 07:57 AM)

Love, love, love this story. It reminds me on why I am working at a hotel. It's the little things that make a difference and absolutely matter to our guests, friends, and family!!
Thanks Bill Marriott for reminding me about the "little things"

Posted By: Lyda Hawes (01/18/2012 at 09:10 AM)

I have 2 and both were at Marriott Courtyards. The first was in Nashville where the front desk staff helped me get an airport shuttle. The shuttle was running late and without my asking, the desk agent called the shuttle company several times to get an ETA. Finally, he became so concerned I would miss my flight that he called me a cab, which the hotel paid for. I was both amazed and impressed.

The second was in the DC area. I arrived to check in and they could not find my reservation. They checked the other Courtyard property that was nearby, then other Marriott properties. They finally discovered my travel agent had booked the room for the wrong date. Sadly, there were no available rooms. So, they got back on the phones and called every Marriott property in the region with no availability. Finally, they found another hotel chain with a room, which they booked for me, then called a cab, and the agent went out to the cab with me to confirm the cab driver had the address and knew the directions. I felt very well cared for and needless to say, very sad to leave.

Those two experiences made me a fan for life!

Posted By: Nadia Mansfield (01/18/2012 at 10:52 AM)

Mr. Marriott,
This story is extremely inspiring. I will remember this as I try to go above and beyond on my daily tasks.
It makes me proud to work a for a Marriott Property.

Thank You!!

Posted By: Karen Cote (01/18/2012 at 03:05 PM)

One experience that comes to mind immediately is when I stayed at the Dulles Airport Marriott a couple years ago. I have worked for Marriott over 25 years in the kitchen and was staying courtesy of my "Quarter Century" status. When they checked me in and I went back to my room, I nearly thought there had been a mistake, it was a beautiful suite! I've never stayed in anything so special! I stopped by the desk to express my delight and the associate explained that the person who made the room determinations always gave Quarter Century members special consideration when the rooms were available. Wow! I certainly did feel special and it reinforced how important it is every time we can make every guest feel that way.

Posted By: barney kelly (01/18/2012 at 05:36 PM)

who are he other folks in the photo along with the Marriotts?

Posted By: Elizabeth K. Liddicoat (01/18/2012 at 08:26 PM)

One of my many pleasant MARRIOTT experiences was the delight of seeing you a few years ago at Beach Place Towers, Ft. Lauderdale.

Posted By: Jane Svehlak, CPCE, CMP (01/20/2012 at 04:40 PM)

Mr. Marriott,

Thank you for your leadership and for upholding your parents' high standards over these many years.

My favorite experience at one of our hotels was just over 18 years ago at the Overland Park Marriott where I had been a repeat customer for 8 years. I needed a bellman to assist with transporting boxes to my meeting room, and was greeted by a very professional gentleman in a suit who offered to take my boxes while I parked my car. Upon arrival to my meeting space he presented his card, and I was impressed beyond words that he was the General Manager.

I was so impressed that I called to schedule a conversation about career opportunities within Marriott because of how I had always been treated as a customer, and I am proud to tell you I will celebrate my 19th anniversary as a Marriott associate this year.

Throughout these years I have experienced that there is something indeed special about both Marriott customers as well as our associates, and we owe so much of that to you. Thank you and congratulations on your lifelong career with our company!

Posted By: ss hinges (01/31/2012 at 07:40 AM)

The eye to detail and the sense of service is always visible in the culture of Marriott.That why the its so sucessfull

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I'm Bill Marriott, Chairman & CEO of Marriott International.

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