Last year Marriott bought Starwood Hotels. The $13 billion merger created the world's largest hotel company with more than 1.1 million rooms and about 5,700 hotels in more than110 countries. The merger combines Marriott brands, including Ritz Carlton, Courtyard and Residence Inn, with W Hotels, Westin, Sheraton and other Starwood brands. Now with the merger comes a fresh approach to engaging all those customers, and part of that is the two once separate customer loyalty programs.
Last year Marriott bought Starwood Hotels. The $13 billion merger created the world's largest hotel company with more than 1.1 million rooms and about 5,700 hotels in more than 110 countries. The merger combines Marriott brands, including Ritz Carlton, Courtyard and Residence Inn, with W Hotels, Westin, Sheraton and other Starwood brands. Now with the merger comes a fresh approach to engaging all those customers, and part of that is the two once separate customer loyalty programs.
If there’s anyone who knows the benefits of customer loyalty its Karin Timpone, CMO of Marriott International.
Timpone, who I interviewed on the modern customer podcast this week, reports that since the Starwood acquisition her role has been consistent. She travels around the world to the many Marriott properties and works with a global team on brand strategy, content strategy, product launches and so much more.
Timpone was formerly an executive at ABC Disney Digital Media, Yahoo! and Universal Studios. She joined Marriott four years ago and has since led major growth for Marriott.
As mentioned before, Marriott and Starwood now have now linked loyalty programs. If you are a Marriott customer you can use your points with Starwood Hotels and vice versa. Timpone says these customers “stay more, pay more and cost less.” These customers, as you can imagine, are much lower cost per acquisition.
But if loyalty is so profitable, why don’t more businesses pursue it? This is one advantage the hotel industry has over sharing economy hospitality companies such as Home Away or Airbnb who do not offer loyalty programs.
Marriott doesn’t only focus on loyalty. They focus on guerilla marketing as well and jump on real-time marketing opportunities via social media.
One recent example was the Pokemon Go craze. Marriott’s social media team put their efforts on high octane putting Pokémon monsters in pools knowing that guests photographed them and that would possibly go viral. They also surprised guests in rooms with Pokémons on their beds when they checked in. They got wind of onePokémon Go super user and they decided to sponsor him sending him to Japan, Australia and Europe to catch more Pokémon abroad.
Social media is a powerful way for marketing teams to engage with customers in real-time. But this requires marketing to have eyes and ears constantly on the ground of their locations. And customers are enjoying travel now more than ever. And they’re sharing their experiences across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. But it’s not just one generation that are enjoying travel and talking about it online. There’s a major shift happening in society where more people focus on experiences over owning things, on access over ownership, and it’s not just the younger generations. This is good news for the hotel industry. Great companies like Marriott are participating in social and cultural phenomenon that end up being great marketing for the company.
Whether it’s customer loyalty programs, social media or jumping on a cultural and social phenomenon Marriott is at the top of its game.
Today many consumers are deeply confused about artificial intelligence and the impact it makes. According to a recent Pega survey of 6,000 customers in six countries, consumers appear hesitant to fully embrace artificially intelligent devices and services. Only one in three (36 percent) are comfortable with businesses using artificial intelligence to engage with them – even if this typically results in a better customer experience. Almost three quarters (72 percent) express some sort of fear about artificial intelligence, with one quarter (24 percent) of respondents even worried about robots taking over the world. So clearly there is a lot of fear and uncertainty around what artificial intelligence can do. However, in contrast 71% of survey respondents said they would want to experience artificial intelligence if it actually made their lives better. We need to do a better job of educating the world about artificial intelligence.
You might not realize how prevalent artificial intelligence actually is in your life – already. Your gmail uses artificial intelligence to sort your inbox and Facebook uses artificial intelligence so you can tag your friends and family’s faces in your photos. These are simply two small examples of the ways artificial intelligence is already part of consumers' lives, and the future brings many amazing possibilities for the use of artificial intelligence to improve customer experiences. In this podcast with the CTO of Pegasystems Don Schuerman we learn about all the pragmatic uses of artificial intelligence and the very real impact its making. We talk about how artificial intelligence is being used today, and how it can and will be used tomorrow.
In a world driven by technology and as more companies cut their customer service efforts as a way to save money, customers can often feel like they are surrounded by information with nowhere to turn. The Better Business Bureau is out to advocate for customers and fight customer fraud in the modern world. According to Steve McFarland, president and CEO of the BBB in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, the group aims to create an ethical and trustworthy marketplace that brings credibility to businesses and provides resources for customers so they can make wise purchasing decisions.
Businesses can become accredited with the BBB as a way to show their credibility and that they provide trustworthy service to customers. Consumers can then see reviews of companies, file complaints against bad business practices, and access free resources to see business reports and trends to make wise choices. Many companies are turning to what Steve calls “ghost”-tumer service instead of customer service. They have taken phone numbers off their websites and instead only have a vague email address customers can contact with issues or questions, but those issues might not always get resolved. If that is the case, then it is increasingly difficult for customers to get issues resolved and know who they can trust.
One of the areas where the BBB is seeing the most change is with cybersecurity and data. There are 12 cyber crimes in the U.S. ever second, and 80 people become victims every minute. With growing technology and new ways for hackers to steal information and reach out to consumers with scams, the threat is increasing every day. The growing threats for businesses of all sizes and for customers means that protecting data is more important than ever. The BBB wants customers to have the tools they need to stay protected, which means doing basic things like changing passwords and being careful about what they post and read on social media. Different types of scams are arising that reach out to new groups of people, even those who think they are vigilant. Checking on something that appears to not sit quite right can help consumers be aware of red flags and avoid having their data stolen.
The BBB is just one way for customers to get the extra information and protection they need and for companies to gain credibility with their customer experience. In an age where consumers can be left behind and not know who to trust, having an organization that can verify trustworthy businesses with great customer experience can help the entire marketplace.
In today’s technology-driven world, one of the foundations of a strong customer experience is data. But with so much data floating around, it can be difficult for companies to know what information to use to best expand their strategies and reach the right customers. According to Rishi Dave, chief marketing officer at Dun & Bradstreet, when data and analytics work together, they can be leveraged to create a strong competitive advantage and build an exceptional customer experience.
Rishi says that companies struggling with data need to first understand the current state of their data and to see if it matches the company’s strategy. Are the analytics in sync with the overall goals of the company? In many cases, the answer is no, often due to not having the right data or using data that is old and outdated. If that is the case, companies need to reevaluate their overall goals and see how data analytics can play a role in their strategy. CMOs also need to learn to leverage master data and bring in additional third-party data. Companies should be collecting their own data from customers through surveys, web traffic, and call center logs, and then supplementing that data with information from other sources to get a complete view of their customers. Those data insights can then drive an improved customer experience.
Data analytics will play a huge role in the future of the customer experience. Having a strong understanding of data puts companies in a better position to use new technologies like artificial intelligence and chatbots to create a personalized experience for each customer. For example, Walmart recently announced that it will be investing heavily in putting sensors in items it stocks in its stores, which will allow the company to know when a product runs our or expires and automatically send the customer more. Being able to transform customer data and collect more data with sensors provides customers a more personalized experience. As technology grows and we can gather new data through sensors and connected devices, the ability to better understand the customer will only increase.
Data opens new doors for understanding customers and creating an incredible customer experience, and the analytics available today provide companies the opportunity to create sophisticated models to drive their decisions. Brands that can best take advantage of data analytics will set themselves apart and have a large competitive advantage.
There has never been a better time to be a CIO. That’s according to Vic Bhagat, CIO of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, who has decades of experience in the technology space. Where it used to be that CIOs were fighting for a spot at the table and struggling to get their voices heard, CIOs are now front and center. Nearly every innovative thing companies want to do today, from social, mobile, big data, machine learning, and more, goes through the CIO. However, with that increased visibility comes a bigger responsibility to play a strong role in the customer experience.
There are often other technology leaders and opinions within an organization, but part of what sets a CIO apart is his or her role as a business leader who must have their finger on the pulse of the business. The CIO has to have a firm grasp on how the business operates so they can know how to best leverage new technology to deliver a world-class experience to customers. In order to know how to best use technology to help customers, the CIO must have a good understanding of customer and work to build a relationship of trust where customers can be honest about the solutions they are looking for and what would make their lives and shopping experiences better.
Vic views one of his main roles as supporting and advocating for customers, both internally and externally. Internal customers, or employees, who have great technology experiences can pass that on to external customers. Consider how a call center employee who is frustrated with a slow computer or outdated system affects the mood and experience of a customer calling in with a question. Conversely, an employee who has the tech tools to do their job can focus on providing a great experience to customers. The CIO can have a good understanding of what customers want to be able to provide them the solutions to best perform their jobs and be happy.
At Verizon, Vic and his team focus on helping companies focus on their core capabilities instead of their chore capabilities. If there is an area that is a chore for a customer that would be considered a core at Verizon, the company can take it off the customer’s plate and allow them to focus on their core abilities and goals for growth.
The idea of customer experience isn’t new. However, with the tools available today, we can create a better and more innovative experience than ever before. The CIO can play a role in making sure the right technology to meet customers’ needs is implemented within the organization.
The CIO’s role, especially when it comes to customer experience, is incredibly important. With a strong understanding of customers and the effects of technology, a CIO can create innovative solutions and a great environment for customers.