The intersection of guests, owners, brands, and staff
by TINA EDMUNDSON
When a branded hotel opens its doors, guests from around the world arrive with an expectation – that we in the hospitality industry will fulfill the promise of that brand in design, in service and customer experience.
As the brand and now marketing leader at Marriott International, I’ve had a hand in growing our portfolio to more than 7,200 properties under 30 leading brands. With an average of one million people staying at our properties every night, maintaining brand standards is critical to the guest experience. Whether or not it is Marriott International, having a range of brands enables owners and operators to tailor the hotel experience and satisfy what guests are looking for when they travel, ensuring they have options that will suit their trip purpose and travel needs.
To be successful, our industry must deploy a rigorous process of innovating, developing, executing, and auditing brand standards at hotels. This requires input from many stakeholders including owners, operators, guests, and associates and, when done well, ensures a seamless and memorable guest experience, whether they are staying at a full service hotel or a longer-stay select-service property.
Standards must be developed across every aspect of the hotel: operationally, experientially, and through design. Operational standards dictate how something will work and allow us to bring innovation to life at scale. This includes considering things that a guest should never have to think about, such as the right density, age, and size of guestroom pillows. Brand design standards create uniformity across certain aspects of the hotel, such as whether a guestroom has a desk or where the right placement is for electrical outlets. Brands also require a unique design strategy with standards, tool kits, and guides to ensure the relevant physical manifestation of that brand. Beyond that, for some brand segments we have Experiential Audits to help the on-property staff develop the right ambiance and creative experiences for guests and locals alike. Everything from the appropriate lighting, botanicals, and music (both genre and volume) for each time of day to which scents should be infused throughout certain areas of the hotel should be considered.
ATTRACTING NEW OWNERS
Beyond delighting guests, brand standards also attract new owners and reassure existing owners and developers who see enormous value in developing compelling brands that will entice new and repeat customers. When working with operators and owners to develop new or refine existing brand standards, we must analyze and seek to understand how a standard could drive the best guest experience, while also considering the operational and financial impact. This can be accomplished leveraging social media and a variety of other research methodologies to stay informed on consumer trends related to how they work, travel, and relax to ensure hotels remain relevant and inspiring to guests.
THE IMPACT OF SHIFTING CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
Let me give you a few examples of how we’ve brought this to life within the Marriott International portfolio.
Our brand standards adapt, to be sure to reflect shifts in consumer behavior. When looking to evolve the guestroom for the next generation of music lovers and music makers, for example, Aloft Hotels’ brand and design team consulted with the ownership community to ensure we were building a hotel of the future that met their guests’ needs. We were delighted to learn that musicians were enjoying Aloft’s public spaces as live-music venues. We knew consumers were spending more time in hotel public spaces than guestrooms. So, we created a brand standard that incorporates high-voltage outlets for musical equipment and soft lounge seating with intentional sightlines to the designated area for live performances. Now, owners and operators can create environments that attract locals, enhancing their lively bar scene while driving revenue.
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts
Sheraton Hotels is a brand where today we are reimagining the guest experience based on consumer behavior. We know more people are working in communal spaces, integrated with beverage and social environments. Dining is less formal and often mixed in with other activities.
We redesigned the public space experience in Sheraton Hotels, outfitting them with product details and service elements that enhance the sense of community. A bevy of new standards have followed, including collaboration and meeting spaces that are now integrated into the heart of the lobby, bar concepts that equally prioritize coffee and cocktails, and a digital experience that expands the zone of ordering food and beverages to include most of the public spaces. All of these things allow guests as well as locals to mingle, gather, and work in an inviting space that just happens to be inside a hotel.
For our Moxy brand, we wanted to provide experiences and attributes that “young at heart” travelers value. In 2014, we launched the brand, which was created with a strong design point of view at an affordable price point.
At Moxy, the check-in experience is at the bar, where guests are greeted with a welcome cocktail. We’ve also incorporated fun and playful ways to monitor guest feedback through a design feature at all Moxy Hotels that displays social media feeds through a creative guestbook.
Empowering Your Team
When the on-property team understands what a brand represents, they are empowered to deliver service excellence to guests through the brand promise. You would be hard pressed to find many hotel bartenders in the industry who check in guests, but at Moxy, a fun and playful experience starts from the moment a guest walks in the door. Training and educating your team on brand standards ensures the experience delivers on guests’ expectations.
Brand standards also help owners maintain the consistency that guests come to love and expect, while enabling owners to better manage their business. Whether it’s a great spot for a grab-and-go breakfast in the morning or a live-music venue in the lobby, brand standards offer a playbook to help owners and operators succeed, and they are the bedrock upon which global portfolios are built.
Tina Edmundson is the global brand officer for Marriott International.