Around the globe, 8,400+ hotels in the Marriott International portfolio entrust the company’s Customer Engagement Centers (CECs) to handle their property reservation calls, enabling Marriott's 6,500 agents on NICE CXone to serve as the voice of the "world’s favorite travel company."
- Reduce system update time and costs
- Reduce vendor footprint and complexity
- Reduce physical capital expenditures
- Enable flexible global scaling
- Quality Management (QM)
- Performance Management
- Workforce Management (WFM)
- Voice of the Customer (VoC)
Marriott International orchestrated a dynamic customer service operation across 20 international customer engagement centers (CECs). In pursuit of exceptional customer experience, Marriott’s service operations were executed on what was once a state-of-the-art platform. As service demands broadened, and as Marriott diversified and grew its portfolio of brands, the company found its platform hadn’t kept up.
Updates took months and the vendor footprint was too large, complicating the architecture with too many integration points and opportunities for failure. Within its crowded portfolio of vendors, some couldn’t provide full capabilities to all of Marriott’s international CECs, leading to inconsistent service quality and functionality. Marriott also needed to scale — its business was growing rapidly, and forecasts pointed to continued growth ahead. Its legacy customer service technology, with its physical server and equipment load, was simply too cumbersome to scale in response to increased demand and shifting priorities.
“The complexity and slow-to-market updates caused us to act defensively and become very reactionary to the demands of the tech,” said Kristina Heidesch, Marriott’s director of CEC systems, product services. “We found ourselves always playing ‘catch-up’ and putting out fires left and right to keep the system up and running.”
A deluge of dependencies
Organizationally, Marriott had no problem with scale. It had grown its customer service organization to encompass 6,500+ agents supporting 46 million interactions annually across 18 languages. However, periodic reviews of the CEC voice platform produced significant pain points. In response, Marriott established “Project Vox” to evaluate cloud-hosted contact center solutions in pursuit of one that would better meet Marriott’s growing needs, particularly internationally.
The process of capturing the system’s numerous requirements and integrations was tedious and took the team nearly nine months to complete. “The process validated the importance of a holistic solution with fewer integration points,” said Heidesch. Throughout a year-long RFP process the field was narrowed to four solutions, and Project Vox was tasked with selecting the best fit for Marriott’s needs, including:
- Reduced physical capital expenditures through cloud hosting. “Having less overhead in terms of services and equipment was critical,” said Heidesch.
- Scaling with agility. “We are a worldwide organization with 20 CECs that run 24/7—having a global solution that we could scale up was important,” said Heidesch.
- Rapid updates. “We needed to increase our update speed from months to weeks,” said Heidesch.
- Holistic integration with fewer vendors. “Having a smaller vendor footprint and less complexity was really important to us,” said Heidesch.
A white glove implementation
After the evaluation, Marriott selected NICE CXone. In partnership with NICE, the implementation was thoughtfully staged beginning in July 2021. By rolling out pilot implementations with its internal support desk and an external BPO partner, Marriott gained key learnings and best practices to apply to the next phase of implementations.
From these pilots Marriott confidently moved to rolling out CXone across its 20 global CECs. To achieve successful user adoption at scale, Marriott leveraged robust training programs and a communications campaign rooted in transparency and customization. “We knew change was hard and that this represented a big change for our CECs,” said Heidesch.
Through monthly “all-hands” meetings with the company’s nine impacted functional groups, Marriott strategically presented easily digestible, audience-specific content about the new system.
“We started high-level, and then based on functionality, began working our way through critical elements and accountabilities,” said Heidesch. “When we spoke with technology teams, we got really technical; with agents, we focused more on training and experience.”
In addition to rolling out multiple job aids, how-to videos, and robust trainings, Marriott created a “white glove” program for associates that needed extra support. Through one-on-one interactions, Marriott offered tailored training that catered to the agent’s specific needs. “It was an agile approach that allowed us to rapidly deploy custom training support how and where it was needed most,” said Heidesch.
To make the transition as painless as possible, CXone was initially implemented through a like-for-like transfer. The existing operations, including routing and prompting, weren’t removed or significantly altered—they were upgraded. And while Marriott will ultimately roll out more CXone features, it focused first-round implementations on critical functions that would immediately improve the customer and agent experiences with the least lift.
Six weeks into full platform integration the team was already making progress on a backlog of more than 80 improvements, including call-back capabilities. “Internally we’re saying, ‘this is the starting line, and now that we’re on-platform we can spread our wings and grow’,” said Heidesch.
In March 2023 Marriott celebrated being fully deployed with CXone.. Six weeks in, quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs) are sparse, but anecdotal feedback shines light on powerful qualitative improvements, including:
- Frontline managers report that new enterprise-level insights, delivered through dynamic dashboards, enable them to lead better and manage performance with more precision.
- Agents report the system is easier to use and that call quality has improved, particularly in international CECs where crisp audio and reduced latency is regularly cited.
- Network services data is easier to access and more robust, allowing for improved system monitoring and trouble shooting.
Beneath its symbolic “We’re in It Together” campaign banner, Marriott is finetuning and looking ahead. It’s “white glove” treatment is still underway, and Marriott anticipates positive KPIs related to guest surveying will be recognized soon.
Today, Marriott is preparing to roll out additional CXone functionality to improve and streamline agent training. In the past, training at Marriott required managers and new hires sit physically side-by-side with connected headsets. With CXone, Marriott can offer a side-by-side training experience in a remote environment.
Marriott’s future includes rolling out additional CXone features and functions, including Enlighten AI and Interactive Voice Response (IVR). “Our voice system is the central nervous system of our organization, so making a lift there isn’t easy, but we’re looking forward to really leveraging all the bells and whistles CXone has to offer,” said Heidesch. “I think it’s just the beginning of where we can take this process.”