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Marriott tests text service requests to empower guests via mobile

Marriott Hotels continues to lead the way in how mobile is transforming the travel experience with a test in 15 hotels enabling guests to text service requests for additional towels and chat with hotel representatives in real-time about other service needs.

At the same time, Marriott has expanded a mobile check-in and checkout service first introduced last year, making it available in the brand’s nearly 500 hotels. These are the latest examples of how Marriott is leveraging mobile, which also includes making free Wi-Fi available in hotel lobbies and providing an application for meeting services.

“There is an opportunity for customers if there are things that they would generally choose like additional towels that they can select and push through,” said Vikas Chawla, vice president of mobile and digital guest experience at Marriott International, Bethesda, MD.

“But there are times when something doesn’t fit easily in a box and so it is a chance for customers to say they are other requests that I can’t easily explain and how do I communicate about them?,” he said. “It used to be, let me call downstairs, let me go find the concierge, but people want to do things on their mobile phone and that they want to do this when they are sitting someplace else, like when we check emails, in that spare time that we have.

“This is their chance to engage with us in that time in the way that they engage with so many other facets of their life. What we wanted to do is make sure we enabled a dynamic conversation.”

Expedited check-ins
The text service requests program is available in 15 hotels in the United States, enabling guests to text a request for more towels, pillows or valet service. The program enables guests to chat with the hotel’s representatives in real-time about their needs.

The mobile check-in and checkout program has proven successful so far, with nine out of ten milliennials who have tried mobile check-in and checkout for the first time saying they would use it again, according to Marriott’s surveys.

With the mobile check-in program, guests can check-in and checkout using the Marriott mobile app. Marriott Rewards members receive a push notification on their iPhone or Android device after 4 p.m. on the day before their arrival alerting them they can check-in.

Guests also receive an automatic notification when their room is ready.

With payment information stored within members’ profiles, guests can walk up to the expedited mobile check-in desk when they arrive at their hotel and find a pre-programmed key card waiting for them.

The service was first introduced last year at hotels in the U.S. and Canada.

Enhanced on-premise experiences
At the end of their stays, guests receive a push notification alerting them mobile checkout is available. Guests can bypass the front desk by completing the checkout from their phones and providing an email address where their bill will be sent.

Going forward, Marriott will continue to investigate ways to leverage mobile to enhance the guest experience.

“There are a lot of things that we can try,” Mr. Chawla said. “What we really wanted to do is look at those things that we can take to our entire portfolio so that the customer is not going, ‘Ok, I can try this here but I can’t really use it there.’

“For us, the product is not just the technology component,” he said. “It really has to come with all of our hosts at that property being able to say, I understand that you did something on your mobile device, and I can carry that all the way through to complete that service experience.

“We are a few steps in but we are taking an approach to make sure we execute flawlessly and we can go brand complete. We are going to be looking at other tests later on this year for different functionality and different approaches to enhance the guest experience.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York