Marriott Embraces Text Requests, Signaling Major Shift in How Hotels Service Guests

PHOTO: Marriott recently announced a text feature that allows guests to make requests without talking on the phone. Getty Images
Marriott recently announced a text feature that allows guests to make requests without talking on the phone.

Between mobile check-in, automatic check out and even robots delivering room service, hotel guests have decreased their interaction with staff dramatically in recent years.

And this summer, travelers staying at Marriott hotels no longer need to pick up the phone to get even the most unusual requests fulfilled. They can just send a text.

The brand has just announced its new Mobile Request app feature. It was introduced at 46 hotels earlier this month and will launch across the entire portfolio of the Marriott Hotels brand -- 500 in all -- this summer.

"Some 75 percent of people travel with one or more mobile devices and the percentage is higher for younger travelers,” said Matthew Carroll, vice president, Marriott Hotels. “We know today’s travelers want a mobile experience built around their changing needs and desire to communicate on their terms. Mobile Request is the brand’s next evolution since our introduction of mobile check-in, checkout and room ready alerts worldwide."

Mobile Request will be available to the 50 million members of Marriott Rewards, the company’s loyalty program. Members will be able to communicate with their hotel in two ways within 72 hours of their reservation and for the duration of their stay. The “Anything Else?” feature offers guests two-way chat functionality to have conversations in real time with the hosts at Marriott Hotels who can fulfill and confirm their requests. It also offers a drop-down menu with most requested services and amenities, such as extra towels and pillows.

And while a few may bemoan the loss of the personal touch at hotels, industry experts say texting is exactly what travelers want.

"Texting for hotel service is a brilliant idea whose time has come.," Professor Chekitan Dev, hotel expert at Cornell University and author of Hospitality Branding told ABC News. "Today's customer has a very simple mantra for businesses they deal with: I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it, and I want it now. In our age of instant gratification, reducing the response time from wish to fulfillment is key."

He added that his research indicates request response time is closely tied to guest satisfaction and loyalty.

Guests are getting far more creative than pillows and towels. Marriott said guests have requested running routes near the hotel for workouts, car service from the airport and even a cinnamon roll with a candle for a 6-year-old's birthday.

Marriott's not the first hotel to use texting, Dev said, but the hotels using it are still few. Marriott said the two-way chat feature is an industry first.

Texting requests is particularly attractive to millennial travelers, Dev said. They're the "hotel industry’s newest target customer, for whom texting is the preferred mode of communication."

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