Ritz-Carlton, Marriot’s five star luxury hotel chain, manages to surprise and delight its guests time and time again. They’re doing so well at this, in fact, that guests keep coming back to Ritz-Carlton hotels far more often than they do for their five star competitors. But how are they doing in the digital world? Not too well, unfortunately. It’s the ticking time bomb underneath every large organization that did very well in the ‘old world’, and still benefits from that success to this day, but doesn’t really know how to cater to their new target demographics in the ‘new world’.
Here’s a number of observations for Ritz-Carlton and Marriott:
- There’s no possibility to chat online.
- There’s no possibility to email the hotel. Instead, only their direct phone number is shown (which is expensive to use internationally).
- If you fill in Ritz-Carlton’s contact form, you still won’t get through to the hotel, but instead you’ll be contacted by a Marriott (!) employee, who doesn’t even seem to know you’ve filled in the Ritz-Carlton form.
- If you’ve filled in the contact form, and an employee tries to contact you and you don’t reply, the company won’t try to contact you again.
- If you receive a reservation confirmation email and want to reply to it, you can’t just do so by email; you’ll get an autoreply that makes you fill in a contact form. On this form, you then have to enter all the details of your reservation again, even though these could just be automatically retrieved from your reservation confirmation, and the hotel could also just let you reply to it by email.
- It’s not clear whether, where, at what times and for what kinds of questions and requests the hotel offers webcare through its social media channels.
Expensive hotels like Ritz-Carlton and Marriott not only need to meet the needs of the younger demographic, but also struggle not to lose a 20-30% margin to companies like Booking.com, which seem to handle the customer side of the booking process better than they do.
What should Ritz-Carlton and Marriott do?
- Introduce a 24/7 online chat service on the website and on WhatsApp. Phone and email are becoming dated.
- Instead of having people call the hotel’s international phone number, which is often a very costly option, it would be far more user-friendly to add a ‘call now’ button to the website.
- Show the hotels’ direct email addresses. If necessary, connect them to a central system, so questions and requests sent to the hotel can be dealt with centrally as well as by the specific hotel itself.
- Let customers reply – by email – to their reservation emails if they have any questions. Based on the email that’s being replied to, the system could be set up to automatically recognize which reservation, which hotel chain and which hotel the reply is about, and have it handled in style by the right person or department.
- When a customer uses Ritz-Carlton’s contact form, they should be replied to on behalf of Ritz-Carlton, not on behalf of Marriott. In fact, anyone who is familiar with the differences between Marriott and Ritz-Carlton should be surprised to learn there are no specifically trained Ritz-Carlton employees handling email communication.
- Indicate clearly on the hotel’s social media channels, like its Twitter account, whether these can be used for asking questions and making requests, and if yes, for what kinds of questions and requests, and during which hours.
- My team and I have had the opportunity to work for several hotel chains in the past, and I think it would be great to be able to help improve Marriott’s and Ritz-Carlton’s online and social media strategy. Are you an employee at Ritz-Carlton or Marriott, or at any other five star hotel chain? I invite you to contact me – non-committally – to exchange ideas on this subject.