I entered this forum extremely frustrated by changes rolled out January 15th. After reading over 600 replies to, "Welcome to our 2009 Program Changes forum!"* it became clear that many hotels and franchisees simply discontinued services and perks that so many Elite Insiders had come to expect without any explanation except, "Marriott changed the program." We all know it backfired with serious consequences. Some very loyal folks left out of angst and frustration. One thing we did learn is that Marriott shifted responsibility to the hotels to decide what Marriott Rewards Program benefits to extend or not.
I used to rely upon Guest Satisfaction Surveys, but noticed a steady decline in the number of GSS invitations that Marriott sends. Since November, I've been writing directly to Customer.Care@Marriott.com to compliment an associate, or to report a less than satisfactory experience.
I found this approach to be very constructive. It alerts local hotel management of a service gap, and allows me the guest to voice concerns and target specific results at the properties that I frequent:
The team of associates at Customer.Care@Marriott.com assigns your note a ticket number and e-mails you back to acknowledge receipt. They also route your e-mail to the hotel's executive office for action. When complimenting an associate, a boilerplate 'thank you' note comes back. When reporting a less than positive experience, someone from the executive office gets back to you within 3 to 5 days.
That is your opportunity to get the GM's ear. Keep in mind that many properties are owned and managed by Marriott franchisees. So the e-mail domain of the return message may be unfamiliar to you. Do not underestimate the value of extending compliments when an associate exceeds expectations. The staff takes notice that you are a loyal customer and appreciate the services provided. When you return, you are likely to receive even better service.
Keep in mind that the GM in your local Marriott has no clue that Marriott Insiders exists UNLESS Marriott gives them access here. Even if they did have access, the individual GM is way to busy to spend time here reading. So, the venting here may not even reach the GM who needs to hear it.
The GM knows and cares that YOU are a loyal guest at his/her property and will listen and respond. The GM knows that your continued business is critical to making his/her numbers each month. He/she will likely elect to restore service(s) YOU expect as well as offer very generous compensation to maintain your loyalty.
If Marriott competitors have comparable offerings in the markets you frequent, make a reservation there and be direct with the Marriott GM why you are shifting brands. He/she is likely to make an exception and unblock that room that you are trying to reserve for points, because you are more likely to offset that with MORE revenue in dining and other services.
Be assured, the executive team will respond because your loyalty is worth it! With multiple Marriott brands over-saturating several markets along with other lodging competitors, the Elites that make the most noise will have an impact. As smart as each Marriott GM is, he/she knows that generating NEW BUSINESS COSTS MORE than loyal repeat business - even if he/she has to deliver upon the promise and services you've previously received and feel entitled to.
To Marriott, the threat of losing any business is taken ~very~ seriously. Try it. For results, write to Customer.Care@Marriott.com
Alternate views are welcome.
Good luck Elites - TJCNewYork
* If you tried clicking on Welcome to our 2009 Program Changes forum! link and received an "error" message, it's because the 636 messages posted there are hidden from view. Amazingly, my message would have been #637 and should have posted February 23rd. I'm delighted that my time wasn't wasted.
Once again a thoughtful and complete explanation! Thanks.
I have heard that the GSS surveys are being handled by a third party and sent out randomly, by the way. With this news the personal approach continues to be the best and most direct way of getting the attention of Marriott personnel, whether for good or bad news.
Marriott realizes we matter, and at times the issue of making a profit seems to cloud the vision of some GMs. Our personal attention to detail is a force multiplier that gives them a sense of what is happening in their properties, and should be encouraged all ways and at all times.
Thanks again for great postings!
To TJCNewYork, I think I can speak for the rest of us here and take exception to your notion that Marriott is listening. The mere fact that Ed French is MIA is proof of this. It was only a few short months ago that he pledged to be a presence here and respond to our issues.
By this time I would have expected Marriott Corp. to address some of our concerns but that just doesn't seem to be the case. You state that Loyals are important to them, but they keep chiseling away at benefits that I think we all earned over the years, and in my case, decades.
Many suggestions have been thrown out on the table in this incredibly good forum but they appear to fall on deaf ears. I thought some of the suggestions were excellent, such as exempting Elites from some of the new Reward schedule changes or grandfathering in the older schedule for points earned up until the January 15th changeover.
But alas, it's all for naught.
The failure of one person to deliver upon a pledge may not be a reliable measure of Marriott's capacity to listen.
The rules of engagement have changed. Marriott rolled out a program and shifted responsibility to the executive teams of the hotels and franchisees. It was a top-down decision to allow the hotels to take responsibility for what services they deliver and how. Customer.Care@marriott.com is the organization equipped with the resources to not only listen but marshal response back from the property when a service issue is reported.
Marriott's focus on delivering great customer service has not changed, just our perception. A month ago, Bill Marriott posted a very moving story about Greg Gregory and his experience at the Atlanta Marriott on his blog, "How one person can impact an entire team" Mr. Gregory's testimonial sends a powerful message about customer loyalty to Marriott.
Last week, Marriott announced a transition in leadership. Let's stay tuned. Some of the excellent suggestions you mention may come to fruition and surprise us all.
I was moved by the story about five diamond service you linked to. Might it benefit Marriott and Elites if we could recognize Marriott employees for great service to us (elites).
Such a program would highlight that the compliment came from an elite. Presumably, we are in the best position to recognize special service. And employees would know when dealing with us that we have that capability to give them special recognition.
Thank you for your note and the suggestion. I think your comments clearly embrace J. Willard Marriott's business management philosophy,
"if you take care of your associates, they will take care of the customer, and the customer will keep coming back..."
Elite reaction to several 2009 Program Changes and primarily the manner in which they were rolled-out suggest a contradiction to the spirit of JW Marriott's statement. The angst and frustration expressed by Elites further suggest that the authors of the 2009 changes do not appreciate the extraordinary level of planning it takes, and the challenges experienced being away from home 25, 50, 75 or more nights a year - especially at check-in when we learn that services are discontinued and Marriott gets the blame.
Or, maybe the General Managers at hundreds of properties are masquerading as Marriott associates. As e-mail I have received via Customer.Care@Marriott.com reveals, it is really surprising how many are not Marriott employees, but work for a franchise that owns and operates lodging under a Marriott brand. What's so striking about the 2009 Rewards Program is the disregard to deliver on the promises central to Marriott Core Values and Culture. We Elites have expectations of a corporate directive that rolls-back elite membership benefits and re-align brand operations to reflect Marriott Core Values.
Implementing your suggestion might be a step in the right direction: Back to the basics of serving guests. Knock-your-socks-off-service should be recognized by Elites and Marriott associates who do it extremely well deserve to be commended. Does anyone have thoughts about creating a 'Spirit To Serve' Forum here at Marriott Insiders? Your comments are welcome. I also invite your cooperation to be purposeful and specific. Kindly state the desired outcome and/or measurable results. Provide examples that illustrate the criteria by which you would recognize a Marriott associate. Thank you again, RainbowWill.
The idea of a forum for recongition of exceptional service has much to recommend it. Back in the day when Marriott was transitioning to an even more customer satisfaction-based business, they embraced the Deming Philosphy that the customer defines quality: Marriott morphed the core of this Deming-ism to be "no guest leaves unsatisfied," or words to that effect. Senior GMs attended Deming TQM seminars, and put that knowledge into practice at their hotels. Unlike some training that wears off quickly, this TQM period was one in which GMs and staff were graded on their adherence to customer satisfaction.
As for metrics, we should be aware that we are not only recognizing an individual but placing that individual on a scale against others, both in the specific location and accross the world of Marriott. Thus, any measurement needs to have terms that are normative, but specific enough to indicate degrees of excellence in service. As an example, would the level of excellence be the same at a small Fairfield Inn in a farming town as a JW Marriott in a major city? It could be.
By the way, there is a Spirit to Serve Award that can be given by writing a letter with enough specifics. We can be part of that process. A personal letter to Bill Marriott needs to contain specific examples, hopefully over a period of time, but one incident may be enough, detailing how an associate went above and beyond the normal excellent level of service we've come to appreciate at Marriott.
Three assocaties with whom I have been very impressed, have gotten that award based on letters (not emails) that I penned. The turn-around time is fast if the letter strikes the right chord. One associate was given a bonus, had her picture taken with Bill when he was at the property, and other forms of recognition.
I made the effort because I knew that the associate was deserving of special recognition. Your suggestion is in sync with that idea. I volunteer, and let's do it!
Thanks for your kind reply. But instead of an Insiders forum to thank associates, I was thinking of something more direct. We have all had occasions when an associate did something for us when we wanted to say a special thanks but just did not have the means. Not something extraordinary but still worthy of more than a verbal acknowledgement.
I want us (Elites) to be able to recognize them spontaneously when they go the extra mile. A reward is more meaningful the more directly it is tied to the behavior. Perhaps Marriott could print a page of "Five Diamond Service" perforated business size cards in our periodic newsletters. It could be printed with our name and rewards number and a couple of blank lines. We could present one to an associate who went the "extra mile" or gave some special service. They would pass it to their management who could key them into a data base so the individual, the team and the facility could be tracked.
As we "road warriors" plan and manage our points and specials, associates could build up these small awards to demonstrate their customer service. As they accumulated, Marriott could recognize individual and location totals with awards.
Because these "special thanks" would come only from Elites, associates would take note of our status and give us their best. Hopefully, this would over time raise their customer service levels for us and for all Marriott guests, giving a Win-Win for Marriott and Elites and other guests.
I did not know about Customer.Care@Marriott.com and hope Marriott would promote this in the newsletter so we could provide more feedback. It would be a good communication medium for recognizing higher levels of great customer service which would need more involvment of the guest to explain.
Yes, I too did not know about the special email address. Thanks,
Your plan really makes sense as so often you would like to mention an associate but sometimes you cannot find the forms. It is uncomfortable to ask one employee to give you the form to write about another employee.
Kind notes from the property staff is a flattering when they thank you for your business.
Your suggestion takes the Guest Comment Card and Guest Satisfaction Survey to another level which I think is fresh, innovative and green.
Conceptually, you're proposing a highly personalized Elite Comment Card/Satisfaction Survey. Currently, Marriott sends a Reminder via e-mail prior to arrival. This Reminder could be used to request Elite members to opt-in to receive an Elite Comment Card that is personalized and printed on-demand at check-in. The Reminder might also explain the benefits of doing so or point online for more info.
Check-in is the touchpoint to engage an Elite guest about the Comment Card. It's an opportunity for the Marriott associate to review preferences and requests that are part of the Reservation. If an upgrade or concierge is requested and cannot be honored, then the associate should be prepared to explain why and/or refer to the Manager On Duty. The purpose here is to assign responsibility so that someone actually takes ownership to facilitate and accelerate an Elite Express Check-in.
The implementation solution may require process improvements, so a 'Spirit to Serve' Forum here at Insiders might be the place for gathering and vetting ideas in parallel with Marriott figuring out what and how to implement. We Elites know what we want so let's give Marriott the opportunity to come up with a framework to engage us in a discussion focused on MOVING FORWARD and RESULTS. Thoughts?
Whenever we stay at our Marriott Vacation Club resort, Imperial Palm Villas in Orlando there is a hand-written note that follows. It always surprises us too. Then, the Guest Satisfaction Survey arrives via post (now e-mail) You can be certain that we assign a '10' particularly the categories of service, front desk friendliness and housekeeping cleanliness where it is most deserved. Marriott Vacation Clubs do not have a concierge level or an upgrade policy - it does not apply. They don't need to because each Marriott associate from housekeeping and engineering on the day-to-day front lines is just as friendly as the front desk in the clubhouse.
A few years back, we had the opportunity to take pictures with associates who we see year after year. They welcome us back by name with a smile and a hug. That year we sent each one a note expressing appreciation for whatever detail they took care of with a photo. The GM was so pleased, she started a Vacation Album and used it to encourage her staff in a way that every person felt engaged to reach out to the guests in new ways.
Great example, thanks!