Smiles are Better Than Smiley Faces

September 6, 2014

Social media and hotels

I had lunch the other day with our terrific general managers from select service and extended stay brands known as CFRST – Courtyard, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and Towneplace Suites.  We talked about social media and how it’s changing customer service.  As I listened to our general managers, I took notes on some of the new ways to attract and keep guests.  In the lingo of social media, I “curated” a top ten list from my notes, including my own item, #10:

  1. Service, service, service. Social media lets us help guests faster than ever before.  Sometimes guest expectations are too high, but our hotels are doing their best to meet them. 
  2. Build customer confidence. We need to talk to our customers the way they talk to us.
  3. Personalized email “welcomes.”  General Managers should make a connection and their email signature should link to the social media channels.
  4. Respond to all reviews we get. If someone complains on TripAdvisor, let's try to explain the situation.  People understand mistakes happen and they appreciate a general manager being upfront, and talking about it.
  5. Encourage sharing.  Associates hand out TripAdvisor cards for guests to share their experiences during and after a stay.
  6. Read competitor reviews. You can gather intelligence and use the information to tailor services to customer needs. 
  7. Be socially green. Encourage guests to fill out a survey on our green efforts that is posted on TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders site.
  8. Listen, not with your ears but with your mouse.  Monitor social media channels to keep track of guest stays and to deliver more personalized service.
  9. Send an email “thank you.”  When general managers send the “thank you,” link to GuestVoice.  It’s our own social media-like survey that gives us great feedback.
  10. This is mine-  BE HUMAN. I still believe that our biggest competitive advantage is a smile -- not a smiley face! We are all human whether in person or online. Technology will change, but thank goodness human nature doesn’t.

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

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Service is key to a guests experience. Marriot hotels understands this. My wife and I recently had our daughters birthday at the Manhattan Beach Marriot for the second year because the level of service and attention we received from every staff member has been unmatched to any other hotel guest experience we've received. The restaurant manager, Richard Feldhum, and his staff including; Gabby, the server, Jairo, the bartender, Travelle, the front desk agent, Charlie Gold, the chef, and the many more we had the pleasure of being in contact with were outstanding. The Marriot Manhattan Beach has exceeded our guest experience effortlessly. We cannot express how truly thankful we are to Richard for making us feel like we are truly special!

Mr Marriott: I read this post with interest, during a break in a 2-day meeting held at your Quincy, MA hotel. I just want to let you know that your staff at this facility epitomizes the culture of outstanding service. Indeed, they were outstanding in every regard, from the ladies at the front desk, who didn't blink when I asked for 60 collated copies of meeting materials, to the custodian who ran for water when one of our guests had a coughing fit. To a person, every employee on staff this weekend went out of their way to make sure each detail of my event was perfect. Ours was a small gathering by your standards, but the staff treated it as though it was the most important thing they had all weekend-despite a 350+ party happening across the hall. Too often, great customer service (particularly in hotels) goes unacknowledged. I'll drop a note to the Quincy hotel manager as well, but I thought you, at the highest level of the organization, might like to know that your people in this corner of the world really shine-particularly Leya and Luis, who managed our event with such professionalism and kindness. I hope their efforts are recognized and rewarded-they truly embody your mission of great service.

Dear Mr. Marriott.

Number one and ten are my favorites.
The whole reason we love the business is to transmit good, positive vibrations to the people we come into contact with, our guests.
And while new media is a great way to get and stay in touch with our guests, the core of it all is the face to face meeting with them and touching their travel experience in the best way possible, whether we work in full or select service properties.

Another effect of new media is that we are under an instant podium, where our performance is communicated to the world and this performance will be judged on ... back to #1.

Have a great week!

Dear Mr. Marriott,

Thank you for sharing your top 10. I personally loved #10 - Be Human. Thats what our business is all about - Bringing smiles to everyone's faces.

Thank you for always inspiring us and i always look forward to reading your blog.

Warm Regards,


Hello from Nashville, Mr. Marriott
I hope you are doing well, Sir.
My name is Bruce Oulson and I work at the Opryland Hotel as a Coordinator in housekeeping room’s control.
There are 3 elements in your list of 10 that I connect with the most.
First- #10: Thank you for mentioning the HUMAN factor. We are after all, in the hospitality business. No matter how much we develop and utilize technology, we must still be able to connect with our guests and our associates. Among my responsibilities as a leader, I feel, that I must demonstrate our values and our culture to sustain the environment for our associates to feel appreciated and to be motivated to exceed our guest’s expectations and also that I demonstrate passion and commitment to serve our guests. Both of these are best achieved with genuine HUMAN interest, presence and interaction.
Second- #4: I regularly refer to sites like Trip Advisor as a gauge to see my property through my guest’s eyes; to evaluate the job I think I'm doing as compared to my guest’s expectations and actual experiences. It also shows me where we are on a guest satisfaction level compared to our closest competition. I consider it a tool and resource with real, applicable value.
And last but not least, the one that has stayed in my head since I read it and typed the previous two-
#1: "Sometimes guest expectations are too high"...I politely ask Sir, is there such a thing as too high? Certainly, for discussion sake, let's disregard anything that jeopardizes our ethical and moral values, but instead ask what IS "too high"? We, as a company, continue to earn our reputation for setting the standards for service, quality, value, culture and innovation that's known around the world. I commit to you Sir, that I will make myself available to respond to and strive to meet the challenge of what some may consider "too high" so that I can help provide the service and experiences to our guests that will help continue to separate our family of brands from our competition.
With sincere regards
Thank you,
Bruce Oulson

Bill - as a Marriott Platinum member and an avid Tweeter, I am a huge fan of your social media team at @MarriottIntl. They are awlays quick to respond and share their appreciation for a positive comment and in the rare occasions where things aren't as expected, they do their best to first listen, then explore ways to make it right.

Tell Brit, Alexis, Sara and all the rest of the team to keep up the great work. They are perfect examples of a team that "gets it" in today's tech-connected world