When I checked into a Marriott hotel in early December, I inadertently gave the receptionist my debit card for indicentals. When I checked out of the hotel four days later, I paid for my stay with a company credit card.
Unfortunately, the debit card number was still in their billing system.
Three weeks later - the Saturday before before New Years, to be exact - a large charge suddenly appeared against my checking account - and the charge came from that same Marriott.
I called the hotel, and explained the situation. The hotel staff listened, and politely informed me that nothing could be done until at least Monday, when the bookkeeping staff returned.
That was a problem - my wife and I had big plans for the weekend, and a billing error by the hotel had virtually drained our checking account!
Without expecting any results, I sent out the following Tweet:
Within 5 minutes, I received the following text on my cell phone - at first, I assumed it was just another marketing text, until I read what it said:
After sending my reservation number, I received the following:
And resolve it they did. Within an hour, a Social Media contact at Marriott was on the phone with my bank to be sure that I would have funds available for the weekend. I didn't expect this level of personalized service, but I was absolutely pleased to receive it!
I learned that at that time, Marriott's entire social media team consisted of three people. But that staff was plenty big to resolve my issue, and resolve it quickly. So I wondered: How could such a large company have such a small yet effective social media group, particularly when they're marketing and selling into such a large global customer base?
As far as I can see, there are at least two factors at Marriott that make this possible:
1. They have a Clearly-Defined Process for using Social Media:
They're tasked with "listening" to Twitter, and the other Social Media for mentions of Marriott. Any mention that in their judgement, requires follow-up, is assigned to individuals inside or outside the Social Media group, for resolution.
2. Their Social Media agents are Empowered:
These social media people are granted authority to make customer-focused deicsions without consulting a manager. And they are empowered to assign issues to other people outside of their reporting structure, to "make somethign right" for the customer.
For this particular customer, a small social media staff can have a big impact on the customer experience, and cumulatively, on the brand and reputation of a company. Like any other business tool, success is all a matter of how you use it.
I've re-told this story many times, and remain impressed with the way a large company can leverage a small social media staff to drive huge results. As my travel begins to pick up in the new year, guess what hotel brand I'll be choosing more often?