The CEO of Hyatt Hotels recently commented that he's had dinner with various Gold Passport members across the nation, and as a result, had determined what was working and what needing fixing in their loyalty program.
A great idea, and the customer always defines quality, especially in a down market, The Marriott Rewards program, like all loyalty programs, has been aging somewhat gracefully over the last quarter century. Its changes have been welcomed or not as its customer size grew. New members are unaffected by the changes having no basis on which to compare. Older members, having seen the good in the program, lament the dimunition of the perks they'd enjoyed.
Perhaps it is time to have these kind of focus groups--in addition to the Insiders page--so that all Marriott Rewards members can have a discussion with the folks who run the program.
I would like an invitation just once to a fancy focus group. I am rock hardened so I might frustrste the coordinators because I would be so honest in my answers. Can't be bought these days.
I would really like to see a radical reshaping of the online customer satisfaction survey. The tool(s) Marriott is using, both in room and online must be 20 years old. I have often wanted to say a special thanks for little extras a hotel has done or just in general an appraisal but I never use the system because it is so outdated. I said it earlier, we are an eagle eyed group and can spot good and bad in about 5 minutes. Reward us with a suite upgrade once in a while for our suggestions and a better tool (let us help you design it) and you will get a big return for the effort.
Another suggestion, because I travel so much people are always coming to me for suggestions on locations and hotels. Some one recently said to me "I know you're a Marriott girl". Thought that was funny. But the point is, I can and do suggest hotels but there is no way for you to know that, because of the power of my suggestion (and personality, just kidding!), I maybe increasing bookings at certain hotels. Seems like there should be a way to capture this.
Just a few thoughts...
As said elsewhere, Marriott Vacation Club Owners are among the most underserved constituency among the Marriott brands from a Marriott Rewards perspective. This group tops 400,000 and represents some of the most loyal Marriott customers by virtue of the fact that they have signed a lifetime contract for vacation ownership with Marriott. Since this group includes business and leisure travelers, members cut across Elite status including Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier and Lifetime Platinum. To form focus groups and exclude members of the group from participating would result in an inaccurate snapshot of who Marriott is serving.
Great post! I agree that Marriott tends to be slower than most companies in getting it, especially when a Platinum member makes a comment. Used to be you'd get a signed letter from Mr. J.W. Marriott Senior when you wrote to comment or complain. I still have some of those letters, from him and from his son, as well. The advent of the Internet seems to have depersonalized the feedback mechanism between the corporation and its most loyal customers.
Ironically, the folks who know me call me a "Marriott groupie" which I hope is a term of endearment. Been one for a long time I guess.
When I was employed full time and was holding a bonded position I got a call from a Junior member of the Legal Office asking if I indeed had some Marriott stock (I did) and whether this was in essence a percieved conflict of interest since we did lots of business with Marriott (in the millions of dollars). I replied that if my few shares could influence Marriott then the answer was yes! The lawyer did not call me again.
If Georgetown, my alma mater, can find me after all these years and ask for specific help, then act on the request, why can't Marriott? (no comparisons with other higher education institutions please--I know that they all do it) Point is that Marriott is a large and spreading corporation. We are its customer base--the top of that base--and should be heard.
Of course, include the broadest cross section possible, including interval owners.
Years ago, artificial heart surgery pioneer, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, when taking a journalist on a tour of his Baylor University hospital, stopped to have a long chat with a man, obviously a janitor, while the journalist waited some distance away. The tour of the heart institute continued for an hour. As the journalist was leaving the hospital he spotted the same janitor. He asked the man what he and the Doctor had discussed, implying by the tone of his question that they had nothing. Calmly the man said, "Dr. DeBakey and I save lives."
So, everyone has something of value to add, (I am putting myself in that janitor's place) In a world where we tend to see only those who seem to be most influential we need to include those who also have a stake (albeit smaller) in the Marriott Rewards experience.
I concur with everything stated here. A focus group - correction - a focus group where the thoughts and suggestions that are put forth and followed up into concrete results, would really be welcome.
But I fear that the results would be misinterpreted just as the results of the 2007 MR "survey" were which resulted in the new "enhancements". I can see it now, asked by the facilitator "as a Platinum member, would you rather have breakfast in the restaurant or concierge lounge?" If most respondents stated "restaurant" then that would result in the hotels closing down all of the lounges in their entirety because nobody wanted to visit them.
So we have to be careful what we wish for.
"So, everyone has something of value to add"
For what purpose, though? Marriott has multiple touchpoints and Insiders is one of them. Capturing all the feedback, verbatim, is a huge challenge but probably more valuable and less costly than conducting Focus Groups. My point is, Focus Groups are not always effective.
If Marriott is trying to identify gaps in service delivery or unmet needs, aggregating GSS, Comment Cards and Customer.Care records will be insightful and meaningful.
Focus Groups are often used in new product development to get a sense of the top features/attributes that a product should have, the target group, the price point that will generate sales and the positioning that will connect with and engage the target group.
If Marriott Rewards is contemplating a new Elite level, conducting Focus Groups would be invaluable. It would be fairly easy to filter out a subset of Platinum Elite who stay in excess of 100 nights per year and solicit their participation. Likewise, if Marriot Rewards is contemplating a cross-over Owner Elite level then it would make sense for MR and MVCI to collaborate in filtering Gold & Platinum members who are also MVCI owners with multiple weeks.
IMO, the sharper the focus the more effective a Focus Group will be for the participants, the moderator and the sponsor.
I think the idea of a focus group is a very good idea. I have been a host several times to focus groups in the industry in which I am involved. Depending on the business, the focus may or may not be new products. For some industries, specific products and pricing would never be the subject of focus as it would be considered inappropriate, perhaps unethical. It is a great way to hear what's going on with customers and what their needs are. The most successful ones do focus on the customer and not the host company. I think if Marriott were to decide on such sessions, it would be great to have sessions just for Marriott Vacation Club owners. That way gold, silver, elite and all others could be represented and the vacation cub could be the focus. I'm surprised that there isn't an option on this site for MVC owners; I have recommended it in the past.
Live focus groups would be much more productive than this forum. Attendees feed off of each other, thus a lot of good ideas are usually generated. People invited to participate would no doubt include people who do not participate in Insiders due to time constraints, busy schedules, and possibly just lack of appreciation for this particular format. So I think it would result in a great cross-section of patrons and a broad range of ideas.
"Live focus groups would be much more productive than this forum. Attendees feed off of each other, thus a lot of good ideas are usually generated."
Having hired 'moderators' to conduct and host focus groups, and paid highly qualified individuals to participate, the cost-to-benefit ratio is difficult to justify in today's social-media-real-time-marketplace. To your point, I do think there is tremendous value to invite individuals who can drive discussion within this format to a more meaningful outcome.
Example 1: Ed French's introductory post, "Welcome to our 2009 Program Changes forum"* of October 20, 2008 generated 636 replies and 27,582 views before the thread was hidden late February 2009. When printed out, there were more than 50 pages of commentary. It was absolutely fascinating. Do you recall the feeding frenzy? When announcing Elite Rollover Nights plus Double Nights, Marriott gave credit to the discussion on Insiders. See, "Announcing Elite Rollover Nights". How much more valuable could the 'feeding frenzy' be if it had been moderated?
Example 2: "NO MORE CONCIERGE LOUNGES ????" posted December 14, 2008 generated 40 replies and 1,491 views. Less than 4 months later, Marriott responded to the feedback and concerns, see "HOORAY for CONCIERGE LOUNGES!" In this example, Marriott tuned in on two forums, Marriott Rewards Insiders as well as FlyerTalk and thanked participants for their feedback and participation. In this instance, Marriott got smarter, individuals stepped in to the discussion to correct misinformation.
"People invited to participate would no doubt include people who do not participate in Insiders due to time constraints, busy schedules, and possibly just lack of appreciation for this particular format. So I think it would result in a great cross-section of patrons and a broad range of ideas."
Quick follow-up to my earlier post. Considering that social media has the highest potential for capturing feedback from the broadest cross-section of participants, Marriott Rewards Insiders offers a unique value proposition for driving enhancements, offers and new services. The challenge for Marriott is staying agile enough to respond quickly.
As stated earlier, based upon the traditional focus group model, the amount of time needed from start to finish - where start is corporate budget approval and finish is walkthrough with corporate on the results and proposed recommendations; the cost-to-benefit ratio is quite difficult to justify.
That said, I do think that it would be very worthwhile to develop a Live Focus Group component in Marriott Insiders and take the Focus Group experience online in real-time. The tools for voice and/or text capture while web conferencing already exist. With simultaneous chat sessions, skilled moderators can white-board and group responses live online for all participants to react to. Marriott can carefully qualify and select individuals and thank them for participation with 25,000 points or a one-night Category 5 certificate, for example. It's a great area for Marriott to innovate. This is a really good thread, I hope my comments don't offend and that the discussion continues.
There are so many minimal, small but very much appreciated innovations and refinements that we could give suggestions and good input on. Here's a morsal.
The brown bottles of shampoo etc. in most Marriotts drive me nuts. They are hard to read. The bottle is a wierd shape (clogs in the neck), the fragrance is dated. The soap at most Fairfield Inns are IMPOSSIBLE to open, watched my 86 year old mother struggle to the point of tears! There is some product variability which for a chain esp. within the same brand is interesting. The BEST products are in the Renaissance brand from Lather. Pure luxury and wonderful products. Based on an introduction to this product at a Renaissance, I order the product for my home use.
Now at some point or time, reassessment of the products will be necessary. Everything gets stale. So why not start with suggestions and development of a new line(s) with our help. At least make them readable so those of us who have declining ability sans readers will not have to drag them with us into the shower! They also serve as a gentle marketing tool, I will for example go out of my way to stay in a Renaissance just for the Lather products. I love taking the partially used ones home with me so I can use them on subsequent trips. I regularly leave the brown bottles, too much trouble for an outdated product.
Just a Friday afternoon thought.
Great ideas Goalie.
Your point is very well taken. I especially like the observations shared about your mother struggling with what many - including myself - take for granted.
Your post reminds me of a stay in 2005 at Marriott Vacation Club. MVCI preselected villas for a trial of the Revive bedding package. We were among a group of owners asked to participate and agreed to stay a week in the villa with this new bedding. It was a huge success. The following year, Revive bedding was introduced across all Marriott brands.
Like bedding, hand and bath soaps, shampoos and lotions must be experienced. Across the board, Marriott could invite guests to provide feedback on ideas, products and services. The ideas can come from multiple sources including Insiders.