I’ve been fond of Marriott Hotels for many years. Marriott properties are consistently clean, affordable, and the restaurants are good. I especially liked the J.D. Marriott in Hong Kong – their Dim Sum breakfast was amazingly good. Because I’ve had such a good experience, I strongly prefer Marriott to other brands.
Recently, my family took a vacation to the Marriott Timber Lodge. They offered us a special deal, as “Marriott Rewards” members with tens of thousands of “points” from prior visits, and we got a great bargain. But after we reserved our room, my wife noticed some bad reviews on tripadvisor.com about this particular property. They claimed that lackadaisical European students took jobs there to ski, but didn’t give good service and that the rooms weren’t clean. Worried, but skeptical, we called customer service. The representative politely reassured us that we had numerous sources of recourse if we were less than satisfied, so we went ahead and checked out the hotel ourselves.
While it wasn’t a flawless stay, the hotel was absolutely beautiful, clean and organized for lots of complimentary fun. The location is excellent – nearby many nice Lake Tahoe activities and restaurants – right on the Nevada-California boarder. Our reservation included a sofa bed for our two boys, and when we noticed our room didn’t have one, we were pleased to get a much better and bigger room with a better view. Kevin, the housekeeping supervisor, gave one of our already discounted nights for free to compensate for our trouble. The rest of the stay was just great. We had a wonderful time.
Marriott’s excellent brand is a good example of what Industrial Engineers and Lean Six Sigma practitioners would consider variance reducing mechanism. These are the sorts of advanced topics The Scientific Leader enjoys teaching to advanced practitioners, called “Black Belts” and “Master Black Belts. Brand equity is created because companies like Marriott consistently deliver the value they promise. Consistently good performance causes people to associate all services of Marriott as valuable and consistently good. Consistent performance is possible because firms like Marriott systematically manage their processes, both inputs such as high quality employees, training and high quality furnishings; and they combine these together so consistently well that it makes customers happy.
Customers return the favor by being willing to give more business, telling their friends and paying premiums beyond those without such a good reputation. In my case, the brand also overcame some small negative feedback on a Web 2.0 social network. Because I already had such a good impression of Marriott, I discounted heavily the negative feedback on tripadvisor.com; and now that I’ve experienced Marriott’s Timber Lodge myself, I can completely ignore the negative feedback as we had a great time.
Could Marriott have improved their process and not had the hiccups I experienced, or those of the customers who wrote on tripadvisor.com? Sure, they can and should. Lean Six Sigma methods can help. But Brand involves the complete set of memories I’ve had of all the value I’ve gotten from them. One “delighter” was that every time I called the front desk, they answered, “How may I serve the Barney family today”? That’s not happened to me before. Little touches like this are pleasant surprises, and because my total experience was great, I’m still very loyal and will continue to differentially frequent Marriott whenever I can. What brands make you loyal? Have you noticed that superior brands lower the cost of sales and reduce sales variability? Are you making investments in your company or personal brand? Do you consider your Brand management as part of your Enterprise Risk Management process – to mitigate customer and marketplace risks?