The merger of Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts would create the world’s largest hotel operator by room count, but would customers win if the merger completes this summer as planned? Marriott has an undisputed record of above-average guest satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, occupying the top tier among hotel chains for over a decade. In 2016, Marriott (ACSI score of 80) places a close second to Hilton (81), and its JW Marriott luxury offering leads among brands at 85.
Marriott’s latest move—adding Starwood’s 10 brands to its existing array of 19—could help stabilize the more uneven ACSI performance of Starwood. Or, the merger could put downward pressure on Marriott’s strong customer satisfaction given the pitfalls that often come with blending operations. ACSI data show that most mergers, at least in the short term, tend to depress customer satisfaction. Looking at Starwood’s track record in the ACSI, the company has at times rivaled Marriott for guest satisfaction, but more often Starwood has lagged behind by as much as 6 to 7 points.
While most Marriott brands pass the threshold for superior customer satisfaction (score of 80 or higher), some show room for improvement—especially AC Hotels, which scores much lower at 74. By contrast, the lowest-rated Starwood brand, Sheraton at 78, outpaces AC Hotels by a significant margin. Americans may be less familiar with the AC name, however, as Marriott entered a joint venture to operate European-based AC Hotels in 2011. The brand came into the U.S. market in 2013, with the first AC Hotels by Marriott opening in late 2014.