Marriott’s first foray into Facebook Messenger in March 2016 was a complete disaster. The bot immediately misfired, sliding into customers Facebook inboxes to make unsolicited suggestions. Customers who had recently browsed through rooms at Courtyard Marriott Chicago online, for example, were sent personal messages asking if they still wanted to book a room.
Marriott’s faithful balked and the chatbot was euthanized within just two hours. Marriott chatbot, you will not be missed.
“Our first entry failed miserably,” said Amanda Moore, senior director of social and digital marketing at Marriott. “But it taught us something — most of all that what we were doing was not what people wanted there.”
In the six months since, it has tested several other approaches on the platform, launching its Marriott Rewards chatbot in late September. Its first focus is to make it easier for people to link their Marriott and Starwood rewards accounts, the two companies having recently merged.
We spoke to Moore about what the brand has learned on Facebook Messenger over the past six months, starting with its initial misfire. Here are the takeaways:
Messaging apps are not another marketing microphone Facebook Messenger has been an important and successful tool for customer service for Marriott Hotels for two years. A dedicated team of four to six people monitor the channel and respond to queries at all times. There, the brand met an existing need, responding to people where they already were. Whereas when it sent out the unsolicited offers in March, people hadn’t opted in and it felt invasive.
“The experience reminded us that messaging is a very personal and intimate meant for closed communication,” said Moore. “When brands are intruding in that space and not coming to the table with any kind of value, it doesn’t work.”