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How Marriott Can Get Back in Our Good Graces

How Marriott Can Get Back in Our Good Graces
Ariana Arghandewal

Marriott has really stepped in it lately. There has been a slew of negative customer feedback that seemingly goes unanswered while Marriott attempts to woo “social media influencers with free trips to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, loyal elites are having to fight for basic elite benefits, award inventory is getting restricted, and Marriott’s social media team is constantly failing at addressing customer complaints. Customers are so upset that the term “Bonvoy” has become a derogatory verb to describe the experience of being a Marriott customer.

1. Address the problem(s)

Instead of focusing on how things appear (via influencer trips), Marriott needs to start listening to what customers are saying. Especially their elite members. Right now, Marriott elites have every incentive possible to jump to Hyatt or Hilton Honors. Both programs offer amazing hotels around the world, reasonable redemption rates, generous elite perks, and the ability to earn status via credit card spending. Losing elites to another brand post-merger? Not ideal. Listen to what all guests (elite and non-elite alike) are saying and address those issues. Marriott’s communication with guests has been incredibly poor so far and the single biggest cause of discontent.

2. Improve communication

Speaking of which, let’s dive into this communication issue again. I’m referring to the way Marriott Bonvoy communicates not only with members, but hotels and the public. It’s been pretty disastrous so far. Some former Starwood hotels have been slacking when it comes to elite benefits, primarily out of a lack of understanding. That makes me think Marriott is just not communicating the Bonvoy program to its new hotels very well. This should be addressed immediately. It’s understandable that communication would become more difficult as the two hotel chains merged, but Marriott has had plenty of time to come up with a plan. Touch base with your customers: A simple email apologizing for recent issues and assuring customers that Marriott is going to address these issues will go a long way. More importantly, be more responsive to customer complaints.

3. Fix technical issues

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t see a complaint on my Twitter feed about some technical issue Marriott has yet to fix. Whether it’s missing points, stay credits, or incorrect elite status appearing on members’ dashboards, Marriott has a lot of technical issues to fix. Now that the brand is launched and all the fancy promotional materials sent out, the company should make a renewed effort to get these technical glitches on their website (and overall system) figured out. And make an effort to avoid another data breach.

4. Reconsider inflated award charts

Marriott Bonvoy’s award chart is pretty inflated. The need for peak season pricing isn’t too outrageous, but the rates are. And customers aren’t into it. Luckily, with so many Marriott elites fleeing greener pastures, Marriott might eventually realize its mistake and reduce redemption rates to a more reasonable level. Or, at the very least, remove peak season pricing.

Overall, Marriott Bonvoy has had a disastrous launch. The company’s communication (via social media and otherwise) has been awful. Elite members are already turning towards other rewards programs to give their business to. If Marriott doesn’t make an effort to address some of the ongoing issues and convey that to their members, they’re going to lose a lot of them. Get a better communication plan going, address your technical issues, and give your customers something to be excited about, other than an Entertainment 720-centric promotional video.

What are some of your biggest gripes with the new Marriott Bonvoy program?

[Image Source: Wikimedia/ Sengkang]

View Comments (27)

27 Comments

  1. Dublin_rfk

    March 26, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Has anyone noticed that all this has occurred since the family is no longer involved?

  2. texmanufan

    March 26, 2019 at 10:12 pm

    Great post Ariana. Agree with everything you highlight but one addition to add. As former Starwood spender of hundreds of thousands of $ on the SPG AMEX cards per year I had decided to move on after a period of mourning. Recently I have received two bonus offers to use my cards. One on business (6 months) and one on personal (until end of year). Both exceed what I previously had but had been devalued after getting bonvoyed. This indicates they are aware of the issues and maybe making steps to correct. Crossing my fingers. I have moved all hotel stays to Hilton and Hyatt as well like many others so will see if they address that as well.

  3. sohony

    March 27, 2019 at 9:06 am

    the sneakiest part is the points devaluation. so it’s 3 bonvoy points to one spg point. but you still only get 500 points for making a green choice (should be 1500 now) likewise devalued points gift at check in

  4. not2017

    March 27, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I was never a Marriott person, ever! Marriott has always been the stingiest program. I had hopes with the acquisition of Starwood, but the merger is a total disaster. I think it is crazy thinking that this will improve. It needs to get much worse, before honchos realize how bad it is. BUT, I don’t think they really care!

  5. 360guy

    March 27, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Marriott has to respect and appreciate its Lifetime Platinum Members!

  6. Roger the lodger

    March 27, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Marriott is slowly sinking into the airline points and loyalty mode: remove benefits as slowly or quickly as you can, see whocomplains or leaves, then assume new members will fill the void.

    We as members of the program (I’ve been in it since early 1984) have seen the benefits of being loyal tested over and over again. Remember Club Marquis? A simple program with great benefits and no points accrued or required. Remember suite upgrades (even to the Presidential Suite) without asking? Remember front desk associates who actually knew your name and status as an elite member? Mostly gone, but certainly not forgotten.

    Marriott could easily remedy this by having a core group of old timers with millions of points weigh in and provide suggestions that might actually work. Loyalty is a two-way street–we’ll be loyal to Marriott as long as we see that they are loyal to us.

  7. TIGA31328

    March 27, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Loss of lounge access as a Gold, I know it’s not that much in the grand scheme of things for how badly they are treating customers overall, but it is the single perk that had me coming back. Without it, I will just stay someplace else.

  8. SeanD

    March 27, 2019 at 9:42 am

    The new web site makes it virtually impossible to find the promotions that were easy to find previously – in fact I have yet to locate where they are available. The new redemtion rates are robbery – marriott has stolen the value of our points. AND like virtually all hotels, Marriott needs to make a move to SECURE WI-FI. Right now essentially all major hotels and most others have one sign in and surf with an open, non-secure wifi, subject to hacks, intercepts etc. Don’t be fooled by the sign in process, which only connects one to the net, NOT to a secure connection.

  9. bozacksmith

    March 27, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Great article, couldn’t agree more. I have been top tier with SPG for years (lifetime also) and I am done with this clown car mess of a merger where the loyalists don’t seem to be valued… 2 weeks to respond and address issues from e-mail submissions? Ridiculous.

    I’ve moved over to Hilton where I have been Diamond also, they will just get all of my $$$ now

  10. redanman

    March 27, 2019 at 10:05 am

    None too soon.

    Problem is that Marriott before the merger was already too big. SPG was about right and that’s why it was the best. Devaluating AMEX earning for everyday spend was just too much for me. Until that reverts, I’m looking elsewhere first.

  11. peterk814

    March 27, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Sorry but credit card spend should not be a factor in obtaining status. It should be reserved for those who actually stay at the properties and loyal to the brands. Dont dilute status with people who just spend and chase status (status hos)

  12. PTK346

    March 27, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Well said, Ariana. I don’t think it’s exaggerating by any stretch to call the launch ‘disastrous.’ As you have nicely outlined, Marriott is compounding the problem every.single.day by failing to address the issues and communicate clearly.

  13. nntman

    March 27, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Agree with TIGA31328. Loss of lounge access for GOLD status is a deal killer for me. Sad that 4PM checkout is also gone for GOLD.

  14. t5campbell

    March 27, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Agree with this article completely. Lifetime Platinum, along with having Ambassador status currently. It is just not worth it. I have already started my switch to Hilton.

  15. CUSTOMDIRECT

    March 27, 2019 at 11:54 am

    As a former Lifetime SPG platinum and now, a Lifetime Titanium disillusioned Bonvoy (what horrible branding), I am amazed that the current state at Marriott is so hopelessly screwed….not much better that the day after the program merge. I have a file permanently on my desk labeled “Marriott Issues. All of the file content has been communicated to Marriott both in writing and some, after serious hold-time and fights with the auto-attendant (Bonvoy guard system..getting through to Marriott Bonvoy account services is hard work) . The file content includes reservation issues, points not being credited, a property “purging” my folio after failing to email my folio as advised at check out (luckily I have copies of the original reservation). On the business side, almost $1,000.00 in travel agency commissions remain unpaid…. many net even rating a response from Marriott travel service intermediary group.

    This all is truly disheartening since I have been extremely loyal to the brands for over two decades but relationships, like gardens, will die if neglected. To that end, I have recently acquired the Aspire card and Hilton Diamond. I’ll be road-testing it on my upcoming trip to Asia…..just sticking a tow in te pool to test the waters.

  16. rylan

    March 27, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    At this point little fixes won’t cut it. Marriott needs to step up and communicate a clear plan to address the issues.
    Fixing the functionality/IT issues
    Fixing the dreadful customer service
    Fixing their training issues and lack of consistent and properly applied elite benefits at hotels

    These are just a few, but they need to be addressed and clearly. Unfortunately Marriott is too busy focused on marketing to do anything else of substance.

  17. SFbayFrequFlyer

    March 27, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Count me as another Lifetime Titanium Elite that is staying mostly at Hilton properties now. Got Diamond status last year and on track for Diamond this year. Hilton Honors program much more customer friendly with decent redemption values. Tired of being bonvoyed.

  18. Prof_Dr_G

    March 27, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    I think all of these loyalty programs are going the route of S&H Green-stamps. They will go away or become worthless. It is disturbing, however, to see this behavior from Marriott. They have been good to me over the years, but a new money-grubbing CEO can do great harm to a company. Unlike the Airlines, Marriott has to listen to it’s customers. Unlike the air travel industry, there is competition in the hotel industry. Marriott will respond and repair their errors, or they will lose their best customers.

    With respect to Bonvoy Technology, the AI/ML driven telephone answering systems is the worst that I have encountered. When you finally get a human on the line, it is clear that they are tired of hearing complaints about that system. The cannot hide their disdain for that Marriott investment.

    I am use to hearing the airlines tell me about my new and improved status, and then later understanding that I am considerably worse off. I never expected that behavior from Marriott.

  19. cmd320

    March 27, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    As a former Marriott Gold (now platinum) the experience is crap wall to wall. IT sucks, customer service is non-existent, most properties have no clue what guaranteed benefits are, Bonvoy could be the dumbest branding decision in travel industry history, points are worthless, app features are completely inconsistent across hotels. I would love to be able to say something positive but…

    Prior to the merger I was both Marriott Gold and Starwood good. The experience at both chains and in both programs was far better. Marriott should be ashamed.

  20. 60triumph

    March 27, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    I was Marriott gold (now Bonvoy Gold). Loss of lounge access is a killer for me. I am jumping ship to another brand.

  21. mykidissmarterthanyou

    March 28, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Their customer service is awful. Spent over 3 hours on the phone yesterday trying to fix a travel certificate reservation that they screwed up themselves when reserving it. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, multiple systems and a lack of morale is disastrous for them-it’s unlikely they will improve in the short term.

  22. kiowavt

    March 28, 2019 at 6:55 am

    The only thing I don’t understand is you thinking Hilton has “reasonable” redemption rates. And some Hyatt ones are insane, like the Hyatt Place PDX. Plus try asking for a late check out at a Hilton any time soon. Were it not for their current offer I would not be staying in many. And now all the new Holiday Inn Express are having 11am check out. So there are more complications than your article allows, and the other options you mention are not nirvana.

  23. pjcflip

    March 28, 2019 at 10:19 am

    As a lifetime platinum MR member (now some other precious metal under Bonvoyage) Im noticing practices at many hotels that seem to devalue the perks. FOr one are the increasingly common amenities fees that charge everyone no matter what status. Why when high speed was free and I could access fitness centers with my status now there are amenities fees that mandatory that sweep those soft benefits away… A lot of hotels seem to be jumping on this shop in big markets and charge these fees and status is of no consequence. Also am I mistaken but was there a decrease in the Platinum bonus vs the new bonus and the limited suite upgrades caped at five vs what used to be unlimited depending on availability.
    I still get decent value for my travel dollar and life time status affords me the opportunity to sample other programs which may be keen to pick up road warriors like me.

  24. TWAflyer

    TWAflyer

    March 28, 2019 at 10:46 am

    A shame! Marriott used to be the most customer friendly hotel chain with the best customer service. Now they’ve followed the airlines’ “business plans” of messing up a merger – despite all the lead time they had – and not caring about customer loyalty. Now you’re just a commodity to Marriott. If you leave them they’ll just go after some interchangeable new “commodity” customer. Bill Marriott would never have let this happen.

  25. kvom

    March 28, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    I count myself lucky in that my normal Marriott stay is a Fairfield Inn where status and upgrades are non-issues. I got two Marriott CCs this year that I’ll keep for the free nights and see if they’re worthwhile.

  26. ftrichard

    March 31, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    The various people complaining that loss of lounge access for Golds is a deal-breaker… you do know that Bonvoy Gold is achieved at 25 nights and 25 nights has never given lounge access in either former SPG or Marriott programmes aside from a short period after the merger when Marriott generously matched the SPG 25-night Gold to Marriott’s 50-night gold enabling lounge access in Marriott properties for SPG 25-night members.

    I think you’re mistaking the former Marriott Gold, which was achieved at 50 nights and gave lounge access, with Bonvoy Gold which is achieved, as I said, at 25 nights because of the reuse of the word “Gold”.

    But knock yourselves out. Stay 25 nights in any hotel chain and tell them the lack of lounge access is a deal breaker so you’re going elsewhere. You’ll quickly run out of hotel chains.

  27. Global CSC Event Coordinator

    April 18, 2019 at 5:45 am

    Marriott downgraded my boss and now the whole company cannot use Marriott anymore – Hope they put my boss back in good graces we have over 5,000 hotel stays a year. I cant believe how they treated him…he won’t even consider them again. I have never seen my boss a lifetime member of Marriott so livid. Great work Bonvoy he said hes been bonvoyed…what is that ?

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