I've been thinking lately about what loyalty programs mean with all of the changing conditions and experiences, so I looked up the word loyal:
It seems to me that LOYALTY PROGRAMS are the ones who are asking for OUR loyalty. To gain our business and dollars (or euros or whatevers), they promote, promise and advertise certain conditions which we should have a reasonable expectation of being met. I think we can rule out def 1 for either party and 3 because it is essentially personal. But definitions 2 and 4 seem to me important, in terms of what Marriott owes its loyal members.
Before the site change, there had been an increasing negativity of posts about conditions at Marriotts, the site, and so forth, as well as questions about what it meant to be at a certain tier of the rewards program and yet not get the recognition that is perceived as the reward for faithfulness, obligations or commitments. I see nothing different in the new site except that it has alienated people like me to the point that I will only visit the site once every several days as opposed to several times in one day. I also have perceived a similar change in how individual Marriotts (with some major exceptions like in Ghent or Athens) treat or do not treat their most frequent guests -- and, in fact, all guests.
I do not feel an intense loyalty to Marriott, because I feel they have fallen down on their promises as defined above, even though I have stayed almost exclusively at Marriotts until the past year, when where I was going made that impossible -- as well as some ill-fated stays. By contrast, despite problems, I am an absolutely committed Delta FF, always between Platinum Elite Plus and Diamond.
I had what could have been (and probably should still be) an unpleasant Delta experience last night, but it turned out not to be thanks to their loyalty program fulfilling its obligations. I was flying to Toulouse via Amsterdam from Boston. I arrived after teaching in the morning, driving 1-1/2 hours, and taking a 2 hour bus ride to Logan Airport to find unbelievable lines. Extra gate people were even saying they'd never seen anything like it, though it seems to have been a combination of fall break, Columbus Day holiday, and moving the shuttle people into the same screening lines as priority passengers. Still, they acted almost like the pilot TSA programs at Detroit and elsewhere, and a two block long equivalent line actual made it through priority screening in less than a half hour.
At 5pm, I checked in at the SkyClub and my 7pm flight was listed on time. At 6, I went to the gate to see it had been changed to 8pm, meaning a likely loss of connection flight to Toulouse today at 9:50. The gate agent was not helpful (she said since they expected arrival in AMS at 9:30 it should be no problem -- ha! anyone go through Schiphol lately for a flight boarding 10 minutes before your arrival and get through customs to the gate?) So I went back to the SkyClub, where I found an amazing agent whom I'd dealt with before. I told her of what my schedule was supposed to be in Toulouse, which would have been useless had I not arrived today except for some fun sightseeing. By then, the estimated departure (mechanical problems, even stated by the gate agent), had the ETD at 11:45pm, so I could not even have made the 2:30pm flight to Toulouse. Denise immediately began helping me before all the other Amsterdam FFs started streaming in, and admitted no way I would make it to Toulouse (today) even on the later flight. So she started the process of getting my luggage off and a full flight refund, just as the SkyClub staff supervisor came over and said "I heard it's going to be cancelled." Denise then expedited the process, got my luggage out of wherever it was (it was probably not on the broken plane, which never took off, as I learned this morning), and applied a full refund on site.
This was not the outcome I desired, of course -- I planned and wanted to be in Toulouse. But we all know what flying is like lately. But trained loyalty agents can make a bad situation better. Denise did that so that I could actually get home to Maine at a not-too-ridiculous hour last night. It was also smart from Delta's standpoint since EU rules would have applied (much stricter in penalties than the US, when I would have been stranded in Amsterdam till tomorrow). But she treated me immediately, as a special customer, and with friendliness, understanding and respect for my loyalty to Delta.
Again, I'm not thrilled that I'm in Maine rather than Toulouse, but it's better than being stranded and unable to get to my destination. My real point is that Delta treated me with the reciprocity of a mutually beneficial loyalty experience because I am such a frequent flyer. I have gotten no less than 20 free trips to Europe in the past ten years (including many in business class) as well as always being upgraded to first stateside. I also frequently have flight attendants come to me in my seat and say, are you "______?" Then they thank me for my business and loyalty. I am sure there are many Delta people out there who have not had the same experience, but I have nothing but good to say.
Marriott should take a lesson from this. Many of us have seen a downgrade in Concierge Lounges, upgrades, treatment, etc. over the past year and have expressed it. Of course these are businesses and act as such, yet as Randy Peterson has often said in InsideFlyer, airlines will almost certainly never give up their loyalty programs because their whole business is based on that revenue. The ones who do will be eaten up by those who continue to single out elite members -- not because they're 'elite' but to thank them for their loyalty.
I thank Delta for what happened last night. I could have been stuck in the airport lounge all night, a Boston airport hotel, an Amsterdam airport hotel tonight, etc., none of which would have made me happy after the flight was eventually cancelled. Instead, they did everything right, at least for me.
PS -- Each year, Delta gives its FF at the Platinum and Diamond level not only complimentary upgrades or miles, but also certificates to give to associates who have provided outstanding service. I've used up all mine for the year, but Marriott should consider a similar program. For Delta, it means only a $25 certificate for the associate, but they have acted eternally grateful when I have given one. Is that so big a price to pay to reward excellent service.?
Thank you for sharing your experience, profchiara. Even as you say it wasn’t the desired outcome, great customer service is always appreciated. And just as a reminder for everyone, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer care team for assistance with questions or issues at 1-800-450-4442, https://www.marriott.com/suggest/suggest.mi.
To be frank, I have contacted customer service in the past few months or so and have not been impressed with their handling of issues. I stayed at a Marriott (residence inn) location in Florida that gave me very bad service. When I called customer service, they seemed to make excuses for that location rather than addressing my issues..i.e., giving me a smelly room where water had leaked onto the carpet and mold that had developed. I told that location I would never stay there again. I was told I would hear from one of the Mangement teams about my bad experience and not unexpectedly, I never heard from anyone again. so much for calling the Customer Service line. I assume it is recorded somewhere regarding this incident, but I really felt like a non persona by the Marriott. I hope this is not indicative of the customer service I will be getting from here on!!!
Sorry Professor that your plane was not able to go, but now you can watch football in real time this weekend! Go Pats (BTW John Madden, a neighbor, was very complimentary of Tom Brady's performance against the team he coached this past Sunday).
On a more serious note, loyalty is a two-way street, and that's alluded to in your post. In terms of being loyal to Marriott, many of us are and have been loyal based on our past experiences with the company and its associates. We expect, some say, demand, a level of service in return for our loyalty. Your experience with Delta sells them for you and enhances your loyalty.
As for Marriott and Marriott Rewards, seems to me that there are at least ten key elements that apply:
My ten cents worth!