Marriott’s digital team issued a statement where they wanted to find new opportunities to connect with the guest along their journey – and no longer be dependent on airlines to enhance the traveler’s experience. If the entire travel experience is in consideration, is Marriott responsible for guests beyond their doorstep?
The process book documents research, synthesis, execution, and implementation of the entire project.
Marriott’s mobile innovation team saw opportunities beyond the four walls of their hotels. They carefully selected the word, “responsible” in their issue statement. They hypothesized that those opportunities could be valuable for Marriott and their guests.
Over a span of about 2 months, my team and I visited multiple Marriott brand locations (Cleveland, Columbus, Mumbai, Chicago, NYC) as guests, as observers (ethnography), and interviewers. It was very clear that our experiences at different locations were incredibly similar - Marriott had a very strict process on keeping their experience familiar regardless of location…a home away from home.
We asked one of the managers, Cal from the Downtown Cleveland Renaissance Hotel, what constituted as Marriott’s brand of care. He pulled out a plastic card from his jacket with a clear hole in the middle. Above it read, “Create personal connections, respond to cues, make it brilliant.” When in doubt, employees were to hold up this card and view an individual through the peephole and remind themselves to be the harbinger of a profound experience with a guest. We found this to be silly and chuckled, but realized how serious Marriott’s doctrine was when he told me that all Marriott employees were required to wear the card - otherwise would be regarded as not wearing their uniform to code.
We inquired how this manifested into a real-world example. He told us about one of Cleveland’s most brutal winters, where a large group of guests had come to watch a football game. They were out-of-towners that had a large bus to come pick them up. While the front entrance of the Renaissance was clear, the path to the bus was blocked with about a foot of snow. When Cal's team realized this, they quickly grabbed a group of about 15 people to shovel out the path for the guests. When the guests came down, they had no idea that the Marriott team went through all the trouble of such a trivial detail. He then told us about broken experiences - "when everything goes well, it’s expected, but one broken moment can break a guest’s experience, completely.” This sounded to me, implicitly, that if a customer’s experience was broken out of the walls of the hotel, that it would affect their whole journey. Even if Marriott wasn’t responsible for the entire journey, there was an opportunity to make a difference.
Needless to say, we found Marriott’s brand of care to be empathic and compelling. We felt like they had a strong understanding of guiding a guest’s experience within their four walls. How do they make the same kind of impact along the entire guest’s journey?
The hospitality industry has had a legacy of pioneering the utilization of new technologies to build new experiences of care. For example, the first elevators were introduced in hotels and the first electrically lit spaces were in hotel lobbies - they were more than gimmicks; they were an extension of their care for their guests. However, with the hospitality apps, we found them to be very utilitarian and devoid of such care. The benefit, however, was that the mobile space did give us the ability to be “with the guest” along their journey without being actually face-to-face with them.
Our problem statement became: Can Marriott’s brand of care be absent and present at the same time?
After traveling, we synthesized our findings with multiple heuristic frameworks. There were three we created that helped us make sense of things:
We found plenty of moments that needed design attention - but it was important that we found very specific moments based on our hypothesis: Finding unclaimed opportunities within the entire guest journey can result in spreading Marriott’s brand of care beyond its walls. These unclaimed areas are ideal, because they are untapped, low-hanging fruit that no one has claimed. Our business rules for locating these untapped moments:
There were three key moments that we found compelling:
In response, we knew we couldn’t change those happenings - they are natural in the traveler’s world. However, we hypothesized that a small gesture from Marriott could make a big difference on their journey. After all, when we care for people, it’s the small gestures that make a big impact.
For more information, photos, research notes, or designs; check out the process book. Here’s a video of how these products might look for a Marriott guest: