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Quality Management for Marriott

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Introduction

Marriott International is one of the most successful lodging companies in the service industry with more than 3,400 reputable establishments and 150,000 employees around the world (Carland & Faber, 2008), and different trusted brands that offer goods and services for a wide variety of clientele. Marriot’s Iconic Luxury brands, for instance, include Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton, and The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, while the company’s Modern Essentials brands include Courtyard, Springhill Suites, and Fairfield Inn & Suites. Aside from Iconic Luxury and Modern Essentials brands, Marriot also carries other brands under Luxury, Lifestyle/Collections, Signature, Extended Stay, and Vacation Clubs. Marriott’s success could be attributed to the company’s management strategies. In the 1980s, Marriott focused on implementing five major trends within the organization – “segmentation of the hotel business; the globalization of Marriott Lodging; meeting the changing needs of our guests; extending Marriott hospitality to the seniors’ market; and turning support functions into business opportunities” (D’Annunzio-Green, 2004, p. 219). Since then, Marriott endeavored to widen its market reach and establish luxury brands that sought to bring customer satisfaction.

Despite Marriott’s ongoing success, the company could use improvements in its management initiatives. One of the reasons why Marriott needs to improve its services include the various complaints from guests about the quality of the company’s products and services, as well as the manner by which it deals with those complaints. The succeeding discussion deals with an evaluation of Marriot’s existing strategic management initiatives, especially when it comes to meeting consumer and supplier demands, followed by various recommendations on how the company could upgrade those strategies and improve performance, productivity and efficiency.

Evaluation of Customer Expectations and Services at Marriott

Marriott International is part of the service industry, which means that the company is expected to provide goods and services that meet the lodging needs or requirements of guests. “Customer satisfaction has a close relationship to service quality in a service environment where interpersonal relationships dominate many customer-oriented processes” (Lockyer, 2007, p. 86). Moreover, it is important to determine and acknowledge customer expectations in business management because those expectations guides management decisions and consequently drives organizational success. “Quality service is service that ‘consistently meets and exceeds customer expectations’. Exceeding customer expectations results in a perception of high-quality service” (Barrows & Powers, 2008, p. 291). Furthermore, Wagner, who helped engineer various hotel chains in the United States, also said that businesses in the service industry must “above all else, be a place where the traveler can obtain shelter and rest… the essence of the hotel plan is… for the comfort of the guest” (Davidson, 2005).

 When hotel and lodging companies like Marriott, for instance, meet the expectations of consumers, their level of satisfaction would influence their patronage and loyalty to said companies. Consumers set standards or benchmarks and consequently feel satisfied and valued by businesses when those standards or benchmarks are met. Therefore, “a customer’s ideal hotel is one which meets all her or his expectations, satisfies the customer’s requirements for customization and reliability, and has the highest perceived value” (Uysal & Williams, 2004, p. 110). Arlen (2008) who is the founder and president of Service Performance, a consultancy agency for companies in the service industry, also discussed the five dimensions of consumer satisfaction and service quality based on a study conducted by Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry. The researchers came up with a survey instrument called SERVQUAL through which service quality and excellence are measured by comparing existing services in businesses to five dimensions that describe consumer expectations. The five dimensions are tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. Based on SERVQUAL, companies in the service industry must endeavor to provide the kind and quality of service they promise their guests, respond quickly and appropriately to inquiries, requests, complaints, and other concerns, observe knowledge and expertise in providing service, consider consumer welfare and interests at all times, and observe transparency such that the quality of services also translate to actual, physical goods and services offered to consumers (Arlen, 2008).

When it comes to customer satisfaction, Marriot conducts extensive customer research to determine consumer feedback, opinions, suggestions, recommendations, and expectations. In addition, as part of Marriott’s commitment to diversity in all aspects of management and service, the company’s leaders travel to different places to learn about different cultures and practices and base their innovative strategies on what they learned. Marriott expects its strategic diversity practices to help the company become more sensitive to the different needs and demands of consumers (Harris, 2002, p. 129). Marriott considers customer expectations in decision-making as proven by the company’s various strategies. Marriot, for instance, keeps a customer-listening system that monitors changes or trends in customer preferences.

Furthermore, during the early 200s, Marriott conducted intensive research to guide the company’s renovation program in one of its brands, the Hilton Garden Inn. Customer preferences and expectations, according to Marriott, allow the company to create a unique identity and image that sets it apart from its competitors (Sturman, Corgel, & Verma, 2011). Marriott has also developed a solid Customer Service Relationship (CSR) strategy, which cultivates an open and two-way relationship with its customers. The company runs a loyalty program that rewards loyal guests and takes advantage of various mediums of communication to establish its relationship with guests. “Customer communications [at Marriott] occurs in a variety of ways, including via direct mail, e-mail, the company Website… and an online community, in addition to direct customer contact” (Carroll, 2011, p. 70).

Despite Marriott’s efforts in meeting customer expectations, the company falls short in satisfying the needs, demands, and expectations of guests. A study was previously conducted to determine how actual guest experiences compared to their standards and expectations. The consumers who participated in the study were asked to accomplish a survey questionnaire where they rate the quality of services offered by lodging companies. Guests rated Hyatt hotels at 7.21, which was the highest rating of all the companies included in the study. Hilton came second with 7.17 while Marriott received a 6.97 rating.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) was also used in the study to compare the scores of lodging companies in the industry like Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, Ramada, and Starwood. Based on the ACSI scores, Hilton received the highest rating with 77 followed by Holiday Inn with 71. Hyatt and Marriott received the second highest rating with 74 (Uysal & Williams, 2004). In June 2012, the ACSI index revealed that Hilton received the highest rating with 80 followed by Marriott at 78, which is 1 percent lower than the company is rating in the previous quarter (ACSI, 2012). The ratings and statistics collected over the years prove that while Marriott is capable of competing with other luxury brands in the market, the quality of service the company offers is less satisfying compared to corporations in the lead.

Change Management Strategies

The performance of Marriott when compared to the performance of competitors proves that the company needs to implement changes to improve service offerings and excellence, starting with the employment of improved quality management practices. Quality management in the service industry setting is “a management technique that encourages managers to look with a critical eye at processes used to deliver products and services” (Pizam, 2010, p. 653). Therefore, quality management would include an evaluation and overhaul of human resources, specifically employees who handle customer service and actual customer service practices, marketing research, interpersonal communication within the organization, knowledge management, product development, and the supply chain, among others. Managers of lodging companies like Marriott should determine what aspects or areas of the business influence the quality of service and determine what practices or strategies should be implemented to improve outcomes and productivity.

One of the more important aspects of quality management, however, involves the interaction or communication between employees or service representatives and the management. Managers at Marriott should cultivate communication and knowledge management in the organization by communicating with the staff to determine consumer expectations, demands, and complaints. “This interaction typically moves managers, supervisors, and employees into a cooperative interaction” (Pizam, 2010, p. 653) and could lead to the cultivation of knowledge management in the organization. Marriott could utilize the experiences of its employees in putting knowledge management in motion in the organization. In knowledge management, the tacit knowledge of employees could be used as an asset because it comes from “deeply personal experience, aptitudes, skills, perceptions, insights, and intuition” (Serrat, 2009, p. 2) of those who have worked personally with guests. Managers at Marriott could follow the cycle of knowledge management in order to encourage their employees to contribute to service quality by sharing and applying their knowledge at work. The process of knowledge management involves creating, storing, sharing, using, and identifying knowledge based on the needs and current situation of the company. Knowledge management also includes strategic decision-making, which puts into consideration internal and external factors like the environment, economy, society, politics, and technology, and applies elements of the internal and external development to organizational management. Marriott should also transform the organization into a learning organization, taking note of consumer demands and expectations and incorporating them to their goods and services.

Winder (1993) has also introduced the five dimensions of quality that companies in the service industry should follow in order to improve their services. The five dimensions include experience, measurement, relationships and systems thinking, inter-connectivity and paradigm logic, and value sharing. The five dimensions underscore the importance of allowing the organization to learn from its guests, improve their services by basing improvements on the outcomes of evaluations or assessments of either customer satisfaction or the overall services, manage the organization by focusing on all aspects of management and service, from the supply chain to human resources, from research to product development, leadership to training, among others. Moreover, companies should also be in the forefront of innovation to gain competitive edge, and targeting consumers by determining their interests and standards, and meeting those benchmarks with satisfying products and services.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on the previous discussion, Marriott should work on the cultivation of total quality management and knowledge management as strategies to improving the company’s services and productivity. Marriott must approach management with sensitivity. According to Davidson (2005), service organizations must make an effort to know their consumers well and view their service and overall infrastructure from the eye of the consumer. Targeting women, for instance, would require managers to conduct research to understand the interests, wants, and needs of women. Moreover, managers must view their services from the eyes of the target market and design the infrastructure and facilities, human resources services, and other service features based on their needs. In terms of total quality management, Marriott must also make an effort to improve their customer services. Majority of complaints against the company includes those that involve poor or slow response to consumer needs and demands, prompting them to lose their loyalty to the organization. For this reason, Marriott should be able to improve customer services by intensifying service training for employees as well as enhancing motivation and encouragement to increase employee engagement.

Marriott should also focus on knowledge management as a strategy alongside the improvement of human resources capabilities. “Hotels can improve their service quality be enhancing employees’ knowledge about customer’s preferences and the corresponding service procedures” (Pyo & Bouncken, 2003, p. 25). The responsiveness of employees also depends on their knowledge and expertise in servicing consumers. Improving their knowledge through intensive training and workshops would allow them to understand consumers and improve their abilities when it comes to handling customer complaints and requests.

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