Innovation commoditization reaches a new low
By Steve Portigal at 1:56 pm, Friday April 05 2013

Earlier this week I stayed at a Marriott hotel. When I checked out, they were unable to get me a bill. My room service from 2 hours earlier was not in the computer. The clerk tried to raise someone on the walkie-talkie but it was to no avail. They offered to email it to me, but 36 hours later as I prepared to submit my travel invoice to my client, I still didn’t have the bill. I explored the website, dealt with several different types of support, and it still took another 12 hours to get the bill!

Today comes the inevitable customer-satisfaction survey. With the audacious subject line Help us innovate your experience at Marriott hotels.


Besides the horribly ugly phrasing (“innovate your experience”?) how hard must they be kidding here?

Someone has hypothesized that escalating the language of the invite they can increase their response rate, but outright lying is really not the way to start the dialog.

Customer satisfaction surveys are not a way to innovate. Sure, it’s possible that this type of tool could uncover unmet needs, but those are going to be the needs that they already know about, right? Honestly, when have you ever taken a corporate customer satisfaction survey that has done anything but treat you like an idiot? This sort of tool is only used for ass-covering, at best, and at worst for one group to preempt any negative feedback that might go to another group that oversees or funds them.

The word innovation has become a meaningless catch-all for any sort of improvement and here Marriott stoops even lower, using it as a proxy for any sort of customer interaction, despite the low likelihood of any change or improvement resulting.

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3 Responses to “Innovation commoditization reaches a new low”

    Hi Steve,

    Long time no speak. Will write to you offline about developments :)
    As for your post..THANK YOU. I see this type of think all the time and am glad someone else is thinking about this. Here’s a related story along the lines of a company using jargon in attempt to impress consumers.

    During a stay at the Sheraton in NYC I called customer service. The on-hold message talked about Sheraton touch-points…and used the term “touch-points” in the message…i was so embarrassed for them. why would they use marketing jargon in a message to guests? Am I not up to speed on things or are their marketing people so unconnected to consumers and how they speak?

    i shared the experience with a few colleagues who suggested that consumers now use the term “touchpoints.” I don;t buy it. what do you think?

    Comment by Hadar 04.05.13 @ 2:58 pm

      First of all, I love that your reaction was “embarrassment” on their behalf. Much more grounded than my anger or disgust :)

      I remember a few years ago conducting some user research and being struck to hear folks (who did not work in marketing, etc.) talk to me about “price points.” I think the language of business creeps into the language of real people although in this case I think they were trying to present themselves in as positive a light as possible.

      Either way, there’s no need for us (as producers of goods, services, messages) to use these words when talking to real people. Just because someone understands – and even uses – the word “touchpoint” what does it say about us if we use that language to communicate with them? It reinforces a certain dynamic that think we would do well to avoid.

      Comment by Steve Portigal 04.05.13 @ 4:09 pm

    Hi Steve, stumbled on your article from your posting it on Facebook. I understand the frustration with the experience, and agree that these surveys are not for innovation. They’re not going to uncover hidden needs, which probably like you I believe are better uncovered through observational research.

    But I have to disagree that these “voice of the customer” (that’s what’s by call them now) CSAT (customer satisfaction) or NPS (net promoter score) surveys treat people like idiots from the get-go and are for ass-covering. With all their imperfections, they are a useful tool to establish at least some measure of KPIs on customer sentiment and get customer feedback. But they’re only useful if the company does something about their scores and the feedback.

    Another thing they can be used for is service recovery and better companies use it for that as well. When someone enters a low score, an alert is sent to the appropriate person for follow-up. How the service recovery is done really depends on how far the company is willing to go to keep customers.

    Just thought I’d summarize my view on them. I’d be surprised if your corporate clients don’t eventually refer to that and give you some of that data to look at.

    True though that these surveys can be frustrating, especially after a bad experience. Better to fix the problems right there and then than after a survey. Better still, avoid the problems! Just last night after calling my mobile service provider 3 times and waiting over an hour altogether on hold with them I got one such survey. It quite upset me not because they sent one, but because I -know- they won’t do anything about it, not for me personally and not on their overall low satisfaction scores. Business as usual. Some companies implement these platforms just to satisfy someone higher up and pretend they care about customer experience.

    Comment by David 04.05.13 @ 5:59 pm