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How Marriott made me a rabid Promoter for the price of a bottle of water

I am, as they say in customer loyalty circles, a Promoter of the Marriott chain of hotels.

Last year alone I spent over 60 nights in Marriott hotels, enough to earn my gold status for the next two years. I’ve referred countless friends and colleagues to various Marriott locations. I even set up a corporate rate for Volusion, which has resulted in well over 100 additional nights. Most hotel chains would love to have a customer like me – and the truth is that Marriott won my lifetime loyalty for the price of a bottle of water.

You see, I wasn’t always a one-hotel chain guy. I used to be equally loyal to three different chains. One night I was staying at a Courtyard by Marriott that I had stayed at twice before.  I have a regular routine that I follow – shortly after checking in, I will go to the closest store and pick up a couple bottles of water (depending on how long I am staying) to bring back to the room. This trip was no different.

However, when I returned to my room, I discovered that the room I was in did not have a mini-fridge. It wasn’t that big of a deal, and I had all but forgotten about it until I received Marriott’s post-stay customer survey.

I filled out the survey as I normally did – Marriott routinely earns high marks from me. The last question of the survey asked what they could have done to make my stay more enjoyable. I put a short comment about how I was bummed at the lack of mini-fridge because I like to keep some water in the room.

The next day, I received the following email from the General Manager of the property:

Thanks so much for taking the time to complete our survey regarding your recent stay – we appreciate your feedback.  I am glad to see that you enjoyed your stay and I just wanted to respond to your comment about not having a fridge in the room.  We have about 24 rooms that do have refrigerators (I see that you had one on your stay before this one) but if one of those rooms is not available, just ask us for one and we will be happy to put one in your room.  We value all of our guests, especially our rewards members and want to do everything we can to ensure we provide a great room and a high level of service.  I hope the next time you are in town, you will stay with us again and I will ensure you have a fridge in your room.

I was suitably impressed. However, I was really blown away the next time I stayed at that same location. During check-in the desk agent informed me that they had ensured that I had a room with a mini-fridge in it. When I arrived in my room there was a bottle of water already waiting for me with a hand written note from the hotel manager.

One of the most important components of any customer feedback program is the final step – closing the loop. It’s where you let the customer know that you have heard and understood the feedback that they provided. This Marriott GM performed one of the most effective close-the-loop activities I’ve ever seen, and all it took was a simple survey, some basic CRM functionality, and 10 minutes of the manager’s time.

Whenever someone asks about the return on investment for Customer Feedback programs, I always cite this example. The tangible benefit to Marriott has been over 200 nights (around $26,000.00) from me, my company and people I referred. Not too shabby for a $2.00 bottle of water.