You arrive in your taxi at the Hotel Adagio, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection in San Francisco. Before you get out of the car, Mose the porter greets you by name.

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“Hello, Mr. Epstein,” Mose says. “How was your flight?”

A bit surprised, since you aren’t a VIP — if you are a VIP, use your imagination — you wonder how this happened.

After a bit of prodding, the bellman reveals his secret (video).

He popped the trunk and looked at your luggage tag while you were paying.

And then, you understand that this is part of the brand: making each customer feel special and unique.

Managing the Customer Experience – Lessons from Marriott

I’m reading J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr.’s book, Without Reservations. My colleague, Eric Marterella, who is as passionate a fan of the Marriott brand as you will find anywhere, gave it to me and even got it signed.

The book is great in the sense that it is both simple and profound. And it is from a man who built a global hotel empire that is, by virtue of its corporate-wide “spirit to serve,” truly social … at scale. As Bill writes, “My dad, J. Willard Marriott, deserves a lot of the credit for creating a culture that empowers our associates to gives 100 percent day in, day out, year in, year out.”

And that culture is still thriving.

They understand. In the hospitality industry, managing the customer experience at every touchpoint — from bellhop to front desk to room to checkout, etc. — is of paramount importance. It’s not about the room and the bed. It’s about the experience and, as Mose the porter recognizes, making people feel special at every touchpoint.

But what if Marriott – or your company – could do even more?

Now, let’s say when I rolled up at Hotel Adagio, Mose not only said, “Welcome, Mr. Epstein,” but he also said, “How was your flight from Washington?”

Then, when I got to the front desk, the woman there, Anne, said, “We know you are vegetarian, so you should be sure to check out the restaurant down the block. Also, here’s a running route for you tomorrow, since we know you are a runner.”

And how would they know this?

Make Social the Second Screen

By connecting the CRM data they have about me with the social data that I share. By having a unified view of me as a customer from both a transactional and social perspective:

  • I checked in on Foursquare when I left DC and when I arrived in SFO.
  • I tweet my running times.
  • I’ve posted on my diet.

Bill Marriott realizes that this data is useful:

Today, social media makes it easy for organizations like ours to “listen” and ask questions of our guests … Our guests and associates have lots of opportunity now to let us know what they’re thinking and how we’re doing as a company.

So imagine that all of this data is connected to my Marriott profile. Not in a creep-you-out way, but in a way that says, “Holy goodness, Marriott actually listens and does something about it.” Mose and Anne can use this valuable information to manage my customer experience across all of these touchpoints to create an even greater differentiator.

I bet Bill Marriott would like that.

Managing Experiences Across Silos Is the Great Differentiator

As a customer, I don’t care that Mose reports to the operations manager and that Anne is using the reservation system. It’s all Marriott. My relationship is with the brand. In the near future, there will be companies that are able to leverage the social data as the second screen. The second screen will complement the transactional systems of yesterday to manage customer experiences across silos that are truly remarkable and differentiated.

These will be the winners in the conversation economy.

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