"It's only product is customer service". That sentence right there is reason enough to carry the article with me to show an associate who lacks customer service!
Thanks much for sharing the link anadyr.
The article and the posts above pretty much sum it all up - boomers are toast (like the weekend continentals). A couple of things stand out in the article to me; Sorenson being a 'non-micro manager' and the reminder of the real estate-hotel split about 20 years ago.
1) Sorenson by delegating out (understandably so and me not necessarily disagreeing with the concept) various segments with the appropriate authority, puts those segments at risk of representing the individuals' perception of The Marriott Way (as long as they meet the overarching goals of maximizing returns - as maximizing is currently defined).
2) As a colleague of one of those 'seething bondholders' twenty years ago when Marriott, who was facing significant litigation over a variety of agreement issues, split (very successfully I might add, in spite of non-disclosed settlements with bondholders and preferred shareholders who also sued - Bollenbach earned his pay) the company into two companies - Host the real estate company and Marriott the hotel management company, I can confidently state that sliding away from core loyalists to cozy up with millennials, is a walk in the park in comparison.
I keep going back to what Laurence Geller former CEO of Strategic Hotels (owner of luxury hotels - Ritz, Fairmounts, Four Seasons, Marriotts - Essex House etc) said on the CNBC profile of Marriott about Bill Marriott (who he called one of the nicest guys in the business who knew all the details of great customer service) when he said it was like waking up every morning with a sledgehammer pounding your head. Well, it appears in regards to customer service in recognition of years of loyalty, we've kept the sledgehammer part. And disappointingly for the long timers, the strategy is working - just read some of the enthusiasm of the new reviewers, "I can't believe I got a free week from Marriott", like a blood transfusion, long timers are being replaced with newer Rewards members who have little or no institutional memory (or investment) who are quite pleased with what's offered since that's all they've known.
Shame on us if we continue missing this obvious service evolution and waste energy, better utilized optimizing individual travel experiences.
George Carlin, for all of his brash crazy statements, was spot on when he said "folks do just enough not to get fired and get paid just enough not to quit". Sadly I see this theme as more of the trend in everything these days, but certainly in the workforce. Companies do just enough to distinguish themselves from the competitors but never go that extra bit to raise the bar, seemingly for fear that the competitors will turn around and raise it again. We as consumers seem to be complacent with these bumps rather than steps forward, so there's little reason for places to attempt to make the extra effort.
We are lucky that the Marriott brand is built around service but that varies wildly across brands within the family. I'm pretty sure we won't see some of the perks of yesteryears but at the same time the world is evolving, at times in ways many folks appreciate very differently. The challenge I see coming is maintaining the quality of service across the brands while keeping up with the times. From the article and for example, I'm not opposed to a room with hardwood floors, especially after seeing some of the pix posted of slippers walking on the carpet in rooms but then again I'm not sure I would run to be the first to stay in a hotel with nothing but hardwood flooring. Their challenge of embracing the younger crowd is not a small one but my fear is that they will push too far in that effort and focus less on maintaining the existing loyal members. My hope is that they continue to focus on what the brands have historically been targeted at doing and not try to fundamentally change that focus.
OK I started this thread and I am glad that I did.
Some questions for all those who read the article and responded:
I recall the west coast Nordstrom's department stores, notable for the "We will and can do anything to make you happy," motto. Their associates were excellent in making amends, finding things, being able to go way beyond what was normal or even expected in retail. Alas, they've dropped that and now they are lost in the retail morass as just one of the boys,
I think we all, well the folks with a vested interest in MR anyway, have been attempting to find the answer to these 3 questions over the past few years and if folks aren't they don't realize they are still on the dock and the boat is preparing for sail. Each year recently we have seen a new category of hotel introduced with higher nightly point requirements, many "old standards" moving up by at least one class or perhaps two and more and more "get there quicker" programs announced by Marriott or their partners (Chase Bank for example). Each year it seems something changes in the grand scheme of the "perks" we enjoy as loyal members of the program across all levels and I for one do not think this trend will change. In fact, I often wonder how things will change with this new CEO. Bill Marriott ran the company as it always has been and seemingly in a way that he was less concerned with where the money ended as long as it was done right. Fortunately doing it right really did net the figures he was used to doing. The new guy has been around but clearly has a different approach. Will it be better? Who knows but one thing for sure is that he is aiming for a monetary goal to prove his value, the resulting impact of which still is yet to be measured.
To more specifically answer your questions:
1 - When the Marriott redemptions are as hard to get or worth similar exchange rates as other competitors. We are close now, Hilton, Starwood and others definitely do things differently but not in a necessarily negative way. I also maintain a "diamond" status with Best Western for my UK countryside travels and well, some of those places would make fantastic vacation spots.
2 - I think you have to quantify the accumulation. For me, I have enough to go anywhere I want in the world for literally months and not worry about running out. I'm similarly invested with American Airlines with over a million miles available to travel on anytime. At these levels, yes the points accumulation is a very big motivator for me. Once they are gone, as I have said in other threads, I'll be much more of a free agent. That said, as I see the devaluation happening at a steady rate, I am pushing up family vacation planning more. This year we'll take a week in the islands and perhaps one in Europe on points. If they announce a cat 10 property level next year, perhaps we'll think about "doing it up" big time for a week and enter that free agency status sooner.
3 - I think anyone that is in the same boat as me for #2 would say yes to this, simply because we don't want to believe our years of travel and savings of points have been for not. Honestly I cannot see this happening without a fundamental shift in the industry or market though....and I don't see that coming anytime soon.
1) For me the deal's already broken, but no real 'hurt feelings' or anything, that's just the way it goes. Disappointed over the ongoing decline in benefits to me as a platinum, of course, like shoe says, "everyone likes things that are free". Angry over the decline, naah. But what does aggravate/irritate me (as I've written enough to create visual tinnitus among Insiders) is the 'poke you in the chest' manner in which business decisions have been communicated to a very loyal, well meaning, experienced travel group like the Rewards elites.
We've all commented on the explanation of BOGOs, CL weekend availability, CY coffee, Gift Cheque demise (still my favorite - "the maker went out of business") and other feckless corporate justification of benefit reductions, now I'm starting to see sloppiness creep into everyday activities such as;
a pricing program that appears at times to want to intentionally deceive the customer into accidentally booking the advance pay 'gotcha' rate or the overpriced AAA rate that also exists for the exact same room elsewhere in the matrix
a breakfast program announcement in May (meaning they must have planned for it in at least during April) that can't be properly executed in June (points having to be added manually, if at all). Properties dropping in and out of the weekend offering making each visit a lottery of policies.
a contest stating winners (Weekly winners - points, not the difficult, understandable, legal clearing grand prize) will be announced two weeks after a drawing, running more than a week behind its safely conservative due date
There's more, but you get my drift.
Perhaps puny little details in the overall picture or perhaps an indication of the lack of crispness Marriott used to be famous for - what next, burned out Rs in the new logo Marriott signs?
2) Fortunately, I have always viewed points as a perishable good and kept a modest balance of less than a quarter million - this not only provided me with wonderful vacations (while still healthy enough to enjoy everything about them), but also somewhat protected me against any major devaluation. So no, points don't tie me to the brand - positive interaction does.
3) Skeptic that I've always been (we do deals for a living - little business behavior shocks me anymore), I didn't fall in love with Marriott. Respect and hold them in highest regard - absolutely; favor and recommend them, for sure; but wed to them - nope (although switching costs keeps me somewhat attached). Like Trautman tells Rambo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiZdY9rw-uo but we're still pals and they have some terrific properties and associates who make for superb travel experiences so I'll still be trawling the ol' Marriott pricing grid (muttering under my breath occasionally bad things about the Pricing Guru) in search of the next great deal (like my $135 brand new Herald Square Courtyard rate, yeah baby).
Off to Canada to celebrate America's Independence Day (IAH, this is my reply to your post ) at a terrific Residence Inn in Gravenhurst Ontario at Muskoka Wharf using the last of a dying breed of valuable Category 4 certificates.
First of all, I did not respond to the initial thread here because I never saw it....
That said, I would respond accordingly:
1. At such point that the said company was out of sync with its competition.
2. As long as point #1 has not happened, yes.
3. No, I would not. As long as a loyalty program is competitive, I will stick with that program and readily accept the value related to that loyalty.
I suppose I would fall into a category of people that do not over-think the gift horse and accept it as it is. It may not be the animal I would aspire to have, but as long as it is a 'gift', and it is competitive with the 'gift' being offered elsewhere, I will take it for what it's worth and WEIGH that in my lodging decision. I would think that this would be a valid approach. thoughts?
Thanks for posting this. I think it is clear that the new CEO assigns no value to loyalty and customer value, and has delegated MR program decisions to Ed French who must have a bonus structure that rewards him for cost cutting rather than enhancing loyalty. It is easy to show revenue impact of cost cuts, but is much more difficult to show the incremental money Marriott receives from us due to our loyalty. Corporations today spend most of the marketing research funds on 'big data' and transaction analysis rather than asking customers what drives their decisions. Millenials as a group are not brand loyal, but I think that is due to the fact that corporations today do little to attract loyalty and are short-term focused. I think Millenials are like we were when we were younger. They will become loyal if they are shown appreciation for their loyalty.
In answer to your questions, here is my plan moving forwards:
1. The elimination of the platinum arrival gift was the final deal breaker for me. Although a small thing, it gave the hotel an opportunity to provide a warm welcome and show of personal appreciation. Now all benefits are commodities with no personal touch.
2. Since I own several timeshares, I really don't need the points like I used to. Their value has diminished every year since Ed French took charge of the program. I made the mistake of saving my points for when I retire and have more time to travel. I had not anticipated their recent rate of inflation. Redemption requirements have gone up more in the past five years than in the previous 25+ years of the pogram combined (similar to federal government spending).
3. I am losing faith that Marriott will 'see the light' unless there is a change in management. I had held out hope due to my history with the company, but the fact that our comments on their own forum are ignored indicates things aren't going to change.
Although other hotel loyalty programs are no better than Marriott's, I think that Hilton has superior properties in the mid-price range (HGI and Homewood). In the past, I would sacrifice quality for loyalty, but now there is no incentive to do that. Courtyard was once a leader in the mid-price tier, but now is a joke. Marriott appears to think that lobbies and social areas are the key to attracting Millenial business. I think they are spending all the money they save on plat. benefits to remodel lobbies. I just don't see business travelers of any age caring much about lobbies, and the younger travelers I know aren't going to spend their time and dollars at the hotel bars/ lobbies if they want to socialize and meet others.
It was a good ride while it lasted, and I greatly appreciate the respect provided by the Marriott family while they ran the company.
I think Superchief has really grasped the view of what Marriott now is and where they are going. For me, I have adjusted my loyalty to a degree. Like Superchief, I own a bunch of timeshare weeks. We got to see the 'loyalty break' that was coming to the hotel division with the total change to the original timeshare game we were sold. We can no longer use our weeks for travel anywhere, they have made it impossible to actually exchange a week owned for another week at a different location as we were initially told. They have severely de-valued our original weeks (just as with the MR points program) and the company has astronomical increases in maintenance fees because they 'swallow marriott Kool-Aid' instead of managing properly.
I have had, other than using timeshare weeks, one stay at Marriott hotels since they announced the devaluation. I will have stay 2 next week at the Mayflower in DC. I'm staying there because I always wanted to because it's such an iconic property. I'm still maintaining my Plat because I'll continue to use my timeshare weeks. But I expect that, even though they have lowered the standard for Lifetime, they intend to put some other 'caveat' into play that will make it difficult to maintain that Lifetime status if you don't meet it (like a minimum spend on a yearly basis to keep it).
I just see more and more coming on the horizon. The old timers don't matter anymore. They've moved on and not figured us into their plans other than the old mantra that old folks hate change and they hope we won't change.
I'm not going to argue the issues anymore, I've just adjusted my stays by looking at other properties when I travel as well as Marriott. I find that sometimes I want to go to boutique properties (like Keswick Hall in Virginia). If I can get a great rate at a good Marriott property without having to delve through fourteen thousand metrics to get to it I'll stay there. But their 'Book Right policy because you'll get the best rate available' isn't fooling me....I notice when that rate adjusts in the second or third night to triple the original price.
Yes in a way Marriott has done us all a favor in making these corporate decisions that devalue our rewards. In fact they have opened our eyes to the need to stay elsewhere, to enjoy (as I did in the past) iconic, smaller places that have charm and even though they may be more pricey, the amenities are there, the service impeccable, and the stay memorable.
Marriott for me has now become as reliable as anything else I used from time to time: My car starts when I turn the key, my stove lights when I turn the knob, and Marriott welcomes me and I stay for a night or two. Memorable? Hardly. Comfortable: Yes? Reliable? Depends but generally more than less.
Is this a good thing? Not really, but I appreciate the push to move beyond the brand, and to forget all that loyalty incentive inertia that comes with it.
Marriott is a big corporation, and they have moved beyond being the best to being one of the best.
Well, for me personally, these changes for the worse are happening at the right time...I'm approaching the end of my professional traveling career. When I do travel in the future, I'll always consider Marriott since I've achieved lifetime plat. But like erc I've never been in love with Marriott, although I have been loyal. I'm a simple person leading a simple life and I like shoeman1000 comments " do not over-think the gift horse and accept it as it is." Marriott is banking on people of my generation who essentially made this company, to cut back on travel in retirement and eventually fade away, so they're after a younger up and coming market. Sounds like to me they're just trying to keep up with the competition and looking out for their shareholders.
I've enjoyed reading all the comments and opinions, they are in line with my thinking as well as my number of nights spent in Marriott properties this year. As I look forward to travel plans next year I'll be using points for almost every stay regardless of the number necessary since I agree with tef6178 there will be some new caveat show up making my lifetime Platinum status as worthless as my reward points.
Us old timers just will fade away and away as we get fed up with the taking away more and more, while the new kids do not know any better.