Faked/Altered Customer Satisfaction Suveys: Marriott

Since writing about the manner in which some Toyota dealers fake or alter customer satisfaction surveys in order to get a higher score (and more money from Toyota), a former Marriott employee has written in to explain how Marriott franchisees ensure that if you’re unhappy with your Marriott stay… you won’t be receiving a customer satisfaction survey. Our tipster writes:

(Corporate hotels have little to worry about because if they foul up, Marriott will just send in a glut of extra labor to fix the problem.) So how to keep labor costs way down and keep the scores way up? Easy.

Based on logs of guest problems kept by the “At Your Service Agent” (the hotel operator) and the on-property comment cards, the franchise managers know in advance which guests are likely to give the property a low score. Before or soon after the guest checks out, the list of problem guests gets copied to the hotel’s reservationist, the person responsible for updating records in Marriott’s massive guest database called OSCAR. The reservationist opens each problem guest’s file and “updates” the guest’s e-mail and postal addresses–actually changing them to invalid or just plain fake addresses. This way, if the guest gets selected for a GSS survey. . . the survey never arrives. This way, only happy, satisfied guests ever get the surveys, and the franchisors can run a hotel into the ground while laughing all the way to the bank.

Read the rest of the tipster’s email inside.

Marriott, “the leader in brand loyalty,” prides itself on having some of the best customer service in the industry–so much so that the corporate Quality Assurance group uses some really tough metrics. And the stakes are high: these QA metrics determine whether a given franchise hotel gets to keep the Marriott “flag,” or the right to use the brand. Guest surveys are split into two types: on-property comment cards, which alert staff to problems while a guest is still around, and “Guest Satisfaction Surveys.” As the name suggests, the former is just a bellwether, it never gets seen by anyone outside the property. The latter, however, is a corporate metric.

After any given stay, a guest may be randomly selected to receive a “Guest Satisfaction Survey” by e-mail or post. Guests are asked to rank nearly every aspect of the hotel, from breakfast to meeting room temperature, on a scale from 0 to 10. What the survey doesn’t mention is that there are really only two valid scores: 0-7 counts 0, 8-10 counts 1. A hotel’s GSS “Score” is calculated as the percentage of all responses that are 8 or above. Precisely because the stakes are so high, franchise hotels are willing to do anything to keep their scores high. (Corporate hotels have little to worry about because if they foul up, Marriott will just send in a glut of extra labor to fix the problem.) So how to keep labor costs way down and keep the scores way up? Easy.

Based on logs of guest problems kept by the “At Your Service Agent” (the hotel operator) and the on-property comment cards, the franchise managers know in advance which guests are likely to give the property a low score. Before or soon after the guest checks out, the list of problem guests gets copied to the hotel’s reservationist, the person responsible for updating records in Marriott’s massive guest database called OSCAR. The reservationist opens each problem guest’s file and “updates” the guest’s e-mail and postal addresses–actually changing them to invalid or just plain fake addresses. This way, if the guest gets selected for a GSS survey. . . the survey never arrives. This way, only happy, satisfied guests ever get the surveys, and the franchisors can run a hotel into the ground while laughing all the way to the bank.

I doubt Toyota and Marriott franchisors are the only ones who have found the holes in the system….I’m not surprised. It’s the culture of modern business.

4 out of 5 dentists agree: Comment cards mean nothing, and the franchisee knows how to game the survey system. Time to call corporate with your complaints. —MEGHANN MARCO
(Photo: batsignal)

Comments

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  1. Sudonum says:

    I worked for Hilton Hotels for 10 years, leaving in 1997. While I worked for them they did not “cherry pick” whom to send GSS’s to. Every room had a comment card in it as well as receiving one everytime you got your bill in any of the restaurants. This was a privately owned, Hilton managed property.

    We had major problems with the plumbing system, specifically getting hot water to the far reaches of the building. As a department head (Engineering) I would receive these cards and have to respond personnally to all the negative ones, either via phone or mail if no phone number was given. I made tons of calls and wrote a million letters just on this one issue alone. It finally got so bad that Hilton was threatening to remove “the flag”. This was one issue on top of the fact that the property was aging and in need of a major facelift. What finally got the owner to invest the money to fix the problem is the fact that in order to make the guest happy we would have to comp them back most of their room charges. I started doing a cost comparison and showed the owner that by fixing the water circulation problem it would pay for itself in about 2 years through increased satisfaction and less comps. He went for it.

    No matter where you stay, if you have a problem, complain about it. You may not get what you want, but you’ll get something. Also ask for a comment card when you check in. Most places will give you one. If not then think about staying somewhere else.

    Oh, and yes, GSS scores were a factor in figuring my bonus (up to 30% of my salary!).

  2. KatieKate93 says:

    So you say that corporate never received my comment card regarding the dead hooker I found in the mattress? That figures.

  3. John Stracke says:

    @KatieKate93: What, you ordered a live hooker in your mattress?

  4. royal72 says:

    why does this not surprise me in the lease?!

  5. AcidReign says:

    …..This doesn’t worry me at all. I’ve never been willing to spend what a Marriot or Hilton room costs! And according to Gridskipper/Conde Nast, even the expensive rooms have feces in them…

  6. d0x says:

    I stayed at a Marriott about 2 months ago and had problem with the tv rental service. I mentioned it on my comment card.

    About 2 weeks later I got an email from someone telling me they were crediting my account for all 3 movies I rented.

    I thought it turned out pretty good.

  7. Theseus says:

    Rule number one for getting a hotel problem fixed: Call Corporate.

    Whether Hilton, Starwood or Marriott, that phone call (especially if it’s attached to a frequent guest number) translates into a “problem file” that strikes fear into the heart of property managers.

    In my experience (and I’m in a hotel room 60-70 nights a year), you’ll get a faster and more generous response this way.

  8. swvaboy says:

    @dOx

    Those free movies cost the hotel abot $.75 to $1.00 each. But you did get something.

  9. brilliantmistake says:

    I just stayed in a Marriott where there were several problems- they forgot to take my credit card when I checked in to cover incidentals (the room was paid for by the conference), forcing me to come down to the desk with my cc after I was in my pj’s (they wouldn’t take it over the phone from the room); they didn’t resupply me with a coffee packet for the in-room coffee maker, and they did not give me a new breakfast pre-order form.

    I hunted around for a comment card in the room, but couldn’t find one. Mysteriously, I didn’t get selected for the post-survey.