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Good question and a slippery slope for sure. Curious what the target distribution will be across lodging vs. timeshare. With Marriott's elimination of weeks-based ownership and intro of Destination Points, hundreds of comments at Marriott-on-the-Move and no Marriott channel to voice owner expectations, the word among owners about participating in Focus Groups got out very quickly.
I completed the survey and several days later received an email thanking me for my interest. They included a list of 3 days with about 8 time slots for each day. They requested that I reply to the email with the best 2 times for me to participate and indicated I would be contacted by phone or email to confirm a time. I didn't hear anything for several days (after my best times had passed), then got an email saying:
"The two times you have selected are either no longer available or you do not meet the criteria for the group scheduled at that time.
To fill you in, the goal of the focus groups is to uncover, at a granular level, what is difficult, time-consuming, frustrating, inefficient or otherwise challenging about each step in certain activities germane to the Insiders website (e.g. gathering information on a destination, or sharing advice on the Marriott Rewards program, etc). After we gather all these "pain points", we'll do another phase of research (a quantitative survey) to prioritize the importance of solving each of those problems. The result will be a set of the most important problems to solve, as cited by Insiders member (instead of a bunch of website features as dreamed up by Marriott employees). For the re-launch of the Insiders website in the coming months, we'll focus our energy on solving the top prioritized problems/needs--and set aside problems that Insiders members have deemed to be low priority. "
I hope they select me again because I sure would like the extra points!
That communication sounds like Marriott should be hiring a completely different company to perform the survey and possible new implementation. Have no idea if the survey company and implementation compay are the same.
How completely unprofressional and juvenile is the response to the application to try to help them in this endeavor.
Based on this information, I will not be expecting any improvement to the Insiders site.
Andrew, what the heck is going on??? This doesn't sound like it is going to be any type of improvement.
And, you haven't even picked the best focus group... if I wanted a "focus" group to review a systems implementation, then I'd pick those users that work in that envirornment. Not a random sample of occasional users.
Why on earth can't they restore the old site and load the later posts?
I am completely fed up with this garbage.
How ironic (the communication). Marriott's core business philosophy and culture revolves around service delivery. In order to do that and do it well requires a deep knowledge of the customer.
Based solely upon the text of that communication, perhaps the focus of the Focus Groups is off-center?
Instead of focusing on the "pain points", why not focus on the "customer" - the Marriott Rewards Insider? It's not radical or revolutionary, it's what the Marriott lodging business has done for years! Focusing on the customer, the "guest" is Marriott's core competency.
Granted, the composition of the customer base is much more diverse and Marriott has developed a stellar portfolio of brands to match. Kudos. The hospitality business is the grandmother of social networking and media. FWIW, are the steps involved in learning about your customers to update a brand so it's fresh, inviting and comfortable so dissimilar from understanding the guests hosted on a website that you're planning to re-launch?
The core competency (to do this) is w/in Marriott. Consistent w/several remarks, there is untapped competency w/in the Insiders community as well.
NewHilton, are we on the same page?
Dear Razorbackfan, that is a pretty poorly done email that you got from them, and one would hope that it's a third party organization that Marriott will not use again. Pain points is a term that seems to be normative rather than helpful, and if it is an inside-the-tent one it fails to convey any meaning for those of us not in the business.
Rule one in designing a survey is knowing what the question wants and what the answer(s) mean when you get them. In this case I see very little attention being paid to either.
Thanks for your interest in contributing to this research. Here's an update on what we're doing:
First, a look at the numbers:
Total participants: 48
Number of Insiders who took the qualifying survey: 800+
Wow. Thank you to everyone who took the survey - that is an astonishing response rate! Your interest in helping means a lot. We wish we had the bandwidth to interview every Insider willing to help. For those of you who are frequent users of the site and didn't get selected for this round, please accept our apologies - certainly your knowledge and suggestions for how to improve the site is valuable to us. We hope you'll still contribute as we go through this re-launch process.
In the survey intro, we said that we could only contact people to schedule them - if you didn't see that note and felt annoyed that we didn't let you know one way or another, we're taking that as a lesson learned to be sure people understand how the communication will happen. We didn't have the resources to email 800 people individually that we could not include them in this round of research. We'll be sure to make it clear next time so no one is left wondering!
Speaking of next time - this is a two phase research project. The next phase will enable many, many more Insiders to weigh in on design issues. There will be MR points offered for the quantitative phase as well.
Thanks again, everyone, for your enthusiasm.
I frankly found the questions asked during the survey did not address the foundations of the Insiders site at all. It was a poorly designed survey.
Since I apparently won't be invited to join in a "focus" group, here is my opinion... the "re-launched" site should be similar to the Fodor's forums (various selections for different continents, a lounge where members can chat about anything, an airline flight forum, etc.) in addition to the MRI forum, the Hotels forum etc.. Check them out here... http://www.fodors.com/community/
But, the improvement to the Fodor's site would be what Insiders has now... private messaging, photo attachments, and editing of your original post.
And, to me, sorting is an absolute issue.... the latest posts, no matter what the topic in each forum, should be displayed first. I can't subscribe to every post... but I do want to see what is going on.
Unlike Marriott Rewards Insiders which is 'gated,' Fodor's is public domain. User content can be searched via Google. For example, 'Top Travel Contributors of 2010,' points to the Fodor's Travel Blog. Another big difference is the business model. Fodor's is advertising supported. Insiders is a private members-only online community and Elite feedback channel. Except for skipping the ads, the Fodor's layout is very user-friendly. A search on 'Marriott Vacation Club' w/o the quotes returned several relevant posts. It wasn't fast, but it worked.
Compared to only 4 Forums at Insiders, Fodor's content is extremely well thought-out and organized around 14 forums. Most importantly, the keyword, 'Destinations' features prominently (the tab next to Forums) on the home page. The Destinations landing page is logically organized by Top Destinations and Travel Guides by Region. The Top Destinations include a list of 48 recognizable and most popular locations. Not sure what the Insiders team had in mind with Browse Destinations. (Regrets Marriott, but Insiders Browse Destinations is a 'pain point'. It's so comprehensive it's agonizing to find what you're looking for since so much clicking is involved. For the re-launch, consider the adage, 'less is more'.)
Published and maintained as a division of Random House, Fodor's illustrates principles worth considering. A publishing model makes a lot of sense. Random House brings competencies to the table that LiveWorld cannot. But, adding a publishing company to the mix merits a try. Kudos, NewHilton and thanks for the reference. As a model, Fodor's gets a thumbs up.
This survey sounds like an over engineered approach to see the obvious. IMHO, an independent market research firm and a two-phase survey process to identify all the blah-blah-blah that they noted in the email to razorbackfan is overkill. By the time the message goes from the users to the research firm to the management layers to the IT team, the message will get lost, diluted, interpreted and spun. There must be a Dilbert (or maybe Rube Goldberg?) cartoon out there that illustrates this. There is plenty of good (including free or inexpensive) forum-hosting software out there that works pretty well for hundreds of forums across the internet. Do we need anything more than that? And they way they have treated the so-called customers in trying to schedule the interview times (cf. pingreeman's experience) shows that the customer is NOT coming first in this process.
KIND OF SAD. I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO PARTICIPATE BUT NOT BEEN ASKED AND IT KIND OF SEEMS LIKE THE ROOM SURVEYS; THE MODEL IS SO OUTDATED.
I SOMETIMES FEEL DISAPPOINTED BECAUSE EVERY TIME I LOOK AT A NEW PROPERTY ON TRIPADVISOR, THE MARRIOTT PROPERTIES ARE ALMOST, IF NOT ALWAYS, IN THE MIDDLE OR BELOW WHEN FREQUENT AND CASUAL TRAVELERS REVIEW THEM. WITH JUST A FEW TWEAKS,THEY COULD BE SO MUCH BETTER. VERY SIMPLE THINGS.
STOP SOME OF THE CHEESEY PROMOTIONS AND OVER ADVERTISING. PUT THAT MONEY INTO THE FACILITIES AND YOU WOULDN'T NEED TO OFFER MOVIE TICKETS AND ALL KINDS OF OTHER JUNK. MAKE YOUR LEASED FACILITES TOW THE LINE; BRIGHTEN YOUR IMAGE. WHEN I HIT 75 NIGHTS YET AGAIN THIS YEAR, BUY ME DINNER OR AT LEAST A DRINK. SEND ME A BIRTHDAY CARD. YOU'RE MAKING IT MUCH HARDER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE.
"Do we need anything more than that? And they way they have treated the so-called customers in trying to schedule the interview times (cf. pingreeman's experience) shows that the customer is NOT coming first in this process."
The point is well-taken and appears to have had a positive impact. A couple of days ago, the company conducting the research reached out to a subset of Insiders identified as 'super-users' that is based upon the frequency of posting. Whether or not this was part of the original research plan, I have no clue; but reaching out to those who use Insiders frequently aka daily is most definitely a customer-centric approach, IMO.
Engaging in Insider discussion about business and leisure travel, guest expectations and Marriott Rewards does not need to be over-engineered. It needs to be welcoming, attractive, user-friendly and easy-to-use.
I'm honored by the invite to participate in one of the upcoming focus groups as a 'super user'. Be assured that your thoughtful contributions about 'over-engineering' and 'overkill' will be among that topics I hope to share.
To that point, if any of you have additional thoughts, feel free to be candid and forthright.
Great! Maybe we'll be in the same session? I prefer to use a Dell notebook w/o webcam, but have access to, tested and will probably use a MacBook w/webcam. Given the snowstorm(s), I'm speculating that there may be some impact. 'Superusers' are also heavy duty road warriors. The focus sessions may overlap with travel that had to be rescheduled due to travel conditions. Confirmation w/logon instructions is still pending - we'll see. I'm looking foward to the experience.
Quick update: I just received an e-mail confirming tomorrow's sessions are on! Login instructions will be sent by COB today.
I am actually about to join the "super user" session in 30mins. Just arrived at my in-laws in NH so I'll be sequestered into a back bedroom but the connection here should allow the camera and full meeting connections. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts and the information I've seen around the forums and the A&A section. Hope to hear from some of you on the call :)
NewHilton - As I understand, there were 2 'super user' sessions about 90 minutes each, I was in the last with a group of four - all platinums or higher and the moderator. The session was webcam enabled and recorded.
We were presented with a single PowerPoint slide outlining a number of steps from information gathering to making a decision. The discussion was both animated and candid from start to finish.
It was very evident that the moderator wanted to explore feedback heard during prior sessions. At a high level, the major themes include, but are not limited to:
Remarkably, the group had consistent thoughts about usability and the impact on participation. For example, not all of us create posts or ask questions. Sometimes we just want to catch up on posts and there is no feature that enables us to track the newest posts or set custom preferences about what content we want to view.
A possible solution might be 'custom sort sequencing' which would allow each Insider to set what posts would come up when they enter the Insiders. If you have thoughts about such an enhancement do feel free to post.
Regards next steps, the moderator will be following up and hopefully given access to the forum to read and maybe even probe. (Other than Andrew, Marriott employees need authorization to view and/or post). Allowing such follow-up would help reduce the guesswork and hopefully dampen the tendency to overengineer.
Overall, the experience was positive and exceeded expectations.
I would second what TJC said. The session was quite good and shows that Marriott is listening and well, "message received" after the last redo of our litle sandbox here. They are actively looking for a way to make things better, to improve the site both from an interactive nature but also from the newbie looking in side.
One of the things I took away was that they are truely looking at everything, though what will make the final cut is no where near a decision at this point. The conversation was very candid and you could tell our moderator was definitely interested. There were no topics that were off limits and we were not hushed or rushed through anything. The single ppt slide I think was really a point of reference, an entry into how you interact with Marriott.com or the Insiders. I think we all had slightly different entry points but all shared common goals and themes, so that was good.
The one interesting thing is this is not the "normal" Marriott staff but a team brought on to conduct this research and help Marriott make the right decisions for the community and the brand. As such I think some of the feedback provided will actually stay off the "cutting room floor" and make it into board rooms and meetings with those that can effect change. Marriott seems to truely be interested in making this a useable and friendly forum for MR members of all levels. They are showing a more focused approach to the next iteration of the Insiders and at least thus far, impressing me with how they are investing time, money, materials into "doing it right" this time around.
The superuser session concluded with a promise of Marriott Rewards points. Happily, my account reflects that. While I'm very impressed that the points were deposited quickly, zukracer's point raises concern - a quick decision does not appear likely.
Striking a parallel to 'overengineering' and 'overkill' is a sense of 'analysis paralysis'. Are we agreed that that should be avoided?
Kudos, Marriott, the re-launch focus group effort got our attention, what's next and what is the timeframe? Kindly, fill us in, the silence can be deafening.
Regards the 'silence', I just realized (from LesliePamel's post about Rollover) that Andrew could be under deluge or seizure or worst from the number of private messages regarding Rollover nights that need to be restored. Keep up the good work, Andrew.
There's been excellent and constructive feedback in this thread. FWIW, take a look at Andrew's recent post in the Lobby.
NewHilton and all,
Recent follow up from a member of the research team (moderator) suggests that feedback from the Focus Groups and Super User sessions is having a positive impact.
I'm not privy to anything specific, but just wanted to let everyone know that there appears to be progress behind the scenes and most importantly that the research team is listening and digesting the feedback.
To that point, let's continue to discuss, comment candidly - all with the intent of contributing to a solution that will advance Insiders as the online travel community it should be.
Thanks in advance for your continued participation. Keep posting!
Thanks for the update, TJC.
If you aren't subscribed to this thread, it is so buried that you're not going to find it to contribute constructive ideas... goes right back to my issue with the sort sequence of responses.
I'm sure there are updates to many other threads that I'd be interested in following but I'm not going to subscribe to each thread.
I agree that it is ineffective to subscribe to every thread. There needs to be some kind of widget that can be integrated to allow for each person to set a preference for a Default Sort/Sequence or a Custom Sort/Sequence.
The most recent example to illustrate the 'burying' effect. One Insider, shoeman, couldn't find CaptJim's popular discussion, 'Do Not Stay List' and started another. What happens then is the creation of orphaned posts separated from main discussion.