First, I want to say that I've been a Marriott Rewards member for 25 years. I've been extremely loyal and have honestly recruited about 20-25 people over the years to join Marriott Rewards. I understand the occasional problem, but Marriott always makes things right and they are always extremely responsive...until this year. Their customer service has TANKED. I had a small issue with credit for a night stay and it took two weeks and three e-mail from me to get what was a canned, unsatisfactory response. Now, I just made a pre paid reservation and realized I booked it for the wrong night. I needed to shift it by one night and the hotel manager argued with me for 15 minutes before agreeing to change. She said things like "I can't make an exception just because you're a Platinum member" and "if I did it for you, I would have to do it for everyone". What's the point of Platinum status if they treat you like everyone else? Further, Hilton lets you cancel prepaid reservations within 24 hours in case you realize you made a simple error. I'm finishing out the year with Marriott to get Platinum for another year and then I'm switching to Hilton Honors.
DJC1962 -- I understand the frustration because I have on occasion experienced it myself. AFter so much trouble I'm glad you got the problem fixed. And I hope they comped you something when you arrived for that reservation because of the way you were treated. Personally, I don't think platinum status should have anything to do with good customer service, which should be afforded to everyone. Bottom line...based on your description of the incident, doesn't sound like Marriott will miss you. Happy travels.
I totally agree with you that there has been a significant change in customer service. There are many many rewards programs available, and Marriot is acting like they have us imprisoned with their golden handcuffs. I know I have lots of choices and frankly, I am going to use up all my points for holiday travel this year and go elewhere in 2010. The list of Marriott properties at which I will NEVER again patronize has doubled in the last year. I'm totally disgusted.
The reservation for the pre-paid night was ~not~ Marriott's error, by your own admission - it was yours. It seems duplicitous to hold Marriott accountable. I also think it unreasonable that you disparage customer service because of a statement by one hotel manager.
Just two weeks ago, I made a similar error. I booked a pre-paid rate at a hotel where I have stayed many times on leisure in New Hampshire and a friend of the family passed away requiring my wife and I to attend the wake in Connecticut. On top of that was Hurricane Bill which slammed the northeast creating bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95 on the night of the wake.
Delayed and frantic, I called the hotel an hour past cancellation time and spoke with the Front Desk person on duty requesting assistance with a reservation closer to the location of the wake and to move my New Hampshire reservation to the following night. The Front Desk took my mobile number and called back about 15 minutes later with all the details. I didn't have to do a thing except drive safely.
My situation was just as isolated as yours, but the outcome very different. I experienced genuine customer service that night. In fact, I thanked the Front Desk person very warmly saying, "You are just one of the reasons that I voted Marriott #1 in Customer Service in the Freddie Awards."
Btw, HiltonHonors did not get the 2009 Freddie Award for Customer Service, Marriott did.*
TJCNew York -- regardless of status, or whose mistake it was, every customer should expect and receive the same level of customer service you did. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way, and consequently occasionally drives people to the competition. And if I were to abandon Marriott, I don't think they'd miss me at all. Or you, or anyone else for that matter.
It sounds as though you have had more than one bad experience recently. Our opinions of Marriott's customer service are based on the service each of us individually receives so no doubt there will be varying opinions. I interpreted your post that you were unhappy with the service even though the mistake on the second issue was yours. I agree that every customer deserves the same quality of service, but there would be no point in Marriott providing a Platinum number for us to call if they did not want to be sure we were satisfied with our experiences at Marriott.
With regard to the second experience you provide where you accidentally booked the room for the wrong night, I would suggest calling the Platinum line and perhaps talking to customer service. Platinum members and others have earned their status and Marriott would have a very extensive history on us, thus might believe that an honest error was made and help correct it. As long as rooms are available, it should not be an issue.
I have been with Marriott for 25 years, earned over 3 million points and am close to emeritus status. I find that the customer service varies from one property to another and I am not happy with some of the changes Marriott has made around the reward program. I do also belong to Hilton and I find them to be a well run organization so if you do move on to Hilton, hopefully you will find the customer service you feel you have earned. If you do move on, I would still post your concerns with someone other than just the property involved.
Rarely do I think about abandoning Marriott, but when I do it's absolutely exhausting.
First and foremost, as a Marriott Vacation Club owner, I'd have to sell multiple weeks of timeshare. One of the reasons we decided in favor of vacation ownership with Marriott is the 'deeded' aspect. We have a week to leave as a legacy for each of our children for them to remember us by. Until then, we make very good use of our vacation ownership.
Since trading for points is one of the usage options that my wife and I definitely enjoy, it would be challenging to give up going to the places where points makes it affordable. Then, of course, there are the points already accumulated. In order to make a clean break, we have to use all of them up.
Then, there's the collateral material. I've opted-in to receive all sorts of 'stuff' from Marriott. Undo all that? Probably the only time that Marriott will reach out to any of us should we leave is to request a vote for the Freddie's. I do vote w/o hesitation as though it were my civic duty. I may not give Marriott a '10' in every category, but I will vote based upon my experience.
Last, but certainly not least, there are all those relationships formed with associates at Marriott properties. So many people went out of their way to exceed expectations. Just this past Friday, when I checked-in, there was a hand-written note with a box of chocolates, Merlot, crackers and Boursin. The note said, 'Welcome back. We missed you! Let us know if you need anything while you are with us.'
Loyalty is a funny (ironic) thing. As someone who studied this for ten years while working in research, it seems simple to say that loyalty is an intangible that is recognizable in its absence rather than it's presence: we know when we are disloyal but have a hard time understanding that we're being as loyal as we can be.
Take Marriott hotels associates' point of view as an example: While there is a push to have each of us (regardless of elite level) treated the same when checking in, the reality is far different, If you know the person then your treatment improves, if not perhaps not. Given the age and experience of most associates with whom I have interacted, the treatment is conditioned by what is flashing on their computer screen, not the level we've achieved.
Thus, loyalty must be earned not taken for granted. many of us are road warriors of three or four decades standing--we appreciate the kindness that we've gotten over the years when we've used Marriott hotels. We've used our points to enrich our vacations and family gatherings. We've come to expect a reciprocal loyalty for our loyalty over those years.
What's happened is due to many causes, not the least of which is the economy, and the need to do with less. As frequent travelers we see the degradation in service, and lament it. When that degradation means less loyalty on the part of associates, then we have a problem needing fixing.
I'd recommend that Marriott have an all-hands meeting at several locataions to go over the basic tenets of hospitality, or customer service and of loyalty programs. This kind of program was used by Marriott years ago when every manager was required to study TQM and the Deming constructs--most managers took that to heart and customer satisfaction soared as a result.
Marriott must recognize that it can and has begun to alienate its most loyal customer base if the slide continues. The process is not irreversable--the good old days can return with minimal cost to the corporation. The benefits that would be reaped on both sides of the registration desk would be great.
Here's to recognizing the most loyal customers and making them feel loyal to Marriott as well!
Great insights about the relationship between the individual perception of customer service and loyalty (or lack of). Over the recent holiday weekend, we stayed at a brand new Marriott providing the opportunity to observe, compare and probe.
At check-in, the Front Desk did not extend a welcome as this was our first time at this new property or ask for my preference of Arrival Gift as is customary; however, points show up in my account today. BUT, the Front Desk person gets kudos because I called in advance for an early check-in and being-in-the-moment meant discovering if the king oceanfront room was ready. So, honoring my special request took precedence over following a script - and that's ok by me. The Front Desk anticipated my gift preference displaying excellent judgment!
Guest arrival presents a huge opportunity for any hotel to make a very positive connection with the guest and party being checked-in. Check-in is not an ATM transaction focused on a flashing screen, it's a process that most definitely involves eye contact, conversation, facial expression and anticipation on the part of the Front Desk about guest needs (which should be on that flashing screen).
You are absolutely spot-on about the need for sessions. But, it's not across the board, Marriott might examine where guest feedback suggests a session or two might make the difference. At this new property, a conversation with the restaurant manager while waiting for a table provided the opportunity to understand how Marriott achieves 'knowledge transfer.' It's all about selecting the right GM and involves multiple 'train the trainer' type sessions with associates. (my words, not the manager's)
Turns out that the GM at this new property is the proud father of a 5 week-old newborn. So, there are MANY factors that might contribute to a given situation at a particular property. In this instance, the go-to person (GM) was not on-property which explained to me why associates seemed less than confident about what to do or not to do. But kudos to them for what seemed like teamwork to make our stay enjoyable.
"Rarely do I think about abandoning Marriott..."
Couldn't agree more TJCNewyork. But it's not you or I threatening to take our business elsewhere. That came from two other posters on this thread. I was simply stating the obvious that Marriott won't miss them any more than it'll miss me. Maybe you feel differently about yourself. My position is that every customer deserves good customer service. On top of that, frequent stayers should get whatever perks are guaranteed to them. I've also had some extremely pleasant and unexpected experiences at check-in, etc, but never Merlot and Boursin...don't even know what the heck it is. But if I ever do get it, I'll thank the hotel for exceeding their own standards and my expectations.
Not to worry, here's a quick FYI:
The Concierge Lounge at the property serves cheese, cold cuts and veggies w/dip in the evenings along with whatever finger foods the chef comes up with. The Concierge level was closed during my stay due to upgrading of rooms on that level with the new LG flat panel TVs. For convenience, Guest Services placed these items in my room as an additional welcome gift.
I agree--every person who appears to arrange for a room deserves excellent service, and it should not matter if that person is a Platinum member or not even a member. This is the core value that gets lost in the shuffle these days, and sadly effects us as long time members more since we remember what used to be.
I'd vote for my earlier suggestion that Marriott have a full-stop and re-emphasize customer service. Can't cost that much and will pay great dividends as well.
Greetings Stepping Stones:
While every Marriott guest deserves exceptional customer service, and it is to Marriott's benefit to deliver the best; the reality is that an Elite oriented culture sets up high expectations about the benefits and privileges that stem from loyalty.
Marriott's Promise, Brand Standards and Hotel Categories reinforce Elite expectations. The Promise is that you leave a Marriott property, 'Relaxed, Refreshed and Re-energized.' That's across brand and category.
Service is a balancing act for sure. As you have noted earlier, there are many factors that contribute to what a guest perceives. From that standpoint, the suggestion for a 'hard stop' is spot-on. If Marriott does implement such a suggestion, let's hope it's less about prescribing 'rigid' rules and more about exercising good judgment for the purpose of raising awareness about customer service that fosters Loyalty.
For example, the issues DJC started this thread with, are all about good judgment on BOTH sides. When I called the New Hampshire hotel in bumper-to-bumper traffic in driving rain from the Interstate in Connecticut ~after~ cancellation time, the Front Desk could have easily brushed me off. The Front Desk chose flexibility and opted to deliver service exceeding expectations - assuring my return to that property.
Loyalty starts at the property beginning with reservations, affordable rates and availability. The experience follows-through with check-in experience and through-out a stay until check-out. Breaches such as those being reported at Frenchman's Reef in St. Thomas disparage the brand and do a terrible disservice to Marriott. A 'hard stop' that's rooted in consistently negative guest feedback makes sense.
TJCNewYork -- this type of going above and beyond is exactly the type of service and perks they ought to be providing to platinum when the concierge lounge is not available. They turned a perk into outstanding customer service. I wasn't even there and I'm satisfied...but I would prefer pickled eggs and draft beer. Always enjoy your posts.