Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has one of the best-reputed loyalty programs in the hotel industry, serving guests of its upscale hotel chains like Sheraton, St. Regis and W. The company has become known for luxury and personalized service.
With more than 1,270 properties in about 100 countries, Starwood isn’t small, but it will soon become a lot bigger. The announced merger with Marriott, to the tune of $12.2 billion, will make Starwood part of the biggest hotel chain in the world. The combined company will have 1.1 million rooms in more than 5,500 hotels. The challenge for Starwood will be how to maintain a personal feel at this increased scale. (Register now to hear from Starwood and other leading brands at Marketing.FWD Summit on February 22 in New York.)
Some Starwood loyalty program members are worried. In a New York Times article, a super frequent (120 nights per year) customer expressed concern that Starwood’s finer touches, like the chocolate-raspberry mousse that greets him when he arrives at most Starwood properties, might disappear.
Starwood has been listening. The company sent a chocolate-raspberry mousse cake to the customer’s home with a cake frosting message: “We Still Care.”
Of course, it’s not possible to let them all eat cake, so Starwood has other personalized service mechanisms in place, like its Ambassador program, which assigns a single point of contact to Starwood’s most valuable guests. Starwood has done the math and found that its most loyal customers are its most profitable customers. The customer service ambassadors for these guests meet regularly to discuss ideas based on the feedback they receive, leading to programs like Your24, which lets guests set their own check-in time.
But how do you measure the success of upscale service, whose benefits are not only functional but also emotional? How do you measure whether someone felt cared for or was excited by the dinner menu?
This will be the topic of the session “Turning Data into Actionable Solutions” at VentureBeat’s Marketing.FWD Summit on February 22. The featured speaker is Matt Valenti, vice president of guest experience intelligence at Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Valenti has had a 10+ year career at Starwood. He has previously served as the company’s director of global market research and, in 2012, he rolled out Starwood’s Guest Experience Index (GEI).
Valenti will discuss how almost everything can be quantified — even emotions such as disappointment or delight. By translating emotional responses into tangible, actionable data points, Starwood can use them to improve hotel products and programs.
Valenti, who has a background in organizational psychology, redesigned Starwood’s customer survey in 2011 to compare customers’ actual experiences against their own expectations and to align the survey closer to hotel ratings and reviews. Starwood is also testing mobile surveys to get feedback on services, such as food and keyless entry, that are best measured in the moment, rather than after the stay is completed.