What should I fairly expect from CTS?

Old Feb 21, 12, 6:44 am
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What should I fairly expect from CTS?

My relationship with CTS is rocky at best.

If it's a simple one click booking type of thing that can be done on Expedia in 5 seconds they generally handle that well. Once it gets more complicated than that, they munge the details, put down wrong rates and incomplete information. Requests to contact the hotel are resisted half of the time (sir you don't need to confirm that with the hotel we're telling you it's OK... me: you guys give me incorrect info half the time so I want the hotel to send over a confirmation).

I am landing in the Dubai airport today and will need transport to Abu Dhabi. I asked one of them to look into it for me a while back but no info came. I got tied up in some business things and picked an agent who has been excellent in the past and fired email at her, but I got her at the beginning of her two days off. The next day I sent an email to the general CTS email after looking into the bus situation myself and seeing that Emirates has a bus to Abu Dhabi leaving at regular times, but you need 48 hours to guarantee a reservation. I'm inside the window already.

For me, it's "oh good, maybe this is something where Centurion can proudly wave the flag and get it done.

Rep who responded:

1. Was using google to try to find busses.
2. Couldn't find any busses at all and asked me for my link.
3. Sent link to the Emirates site and she wrote back saying you can't book on that site (yes I know that, else I'd have done it, but it has the info about the bus).
4. Told me that it's in the 48 hour window so there is nothing they can do.

I wrote back and said, well you can call them and ask politely and see if they will allow us to make a reservation. Say you're Centurion, and Amex has a relationship with Emirates. So, maybe then they say why yes, they will let this Centurion customer onto the bus.

Her last suggestion was I wait until arrival and ask the concierge at the airport hotel to deal with it for me.

Then I thought I could actually get the Centurion Concierge but they will probably ask me why I'm not asking CTS. And around and around and around this goes.

I don't know why they don't just pick up the phone and call and try to help you to the best of their ability rather than just trying to kick the problem to someone else.

Recently I had Concierge refusing to answer any questions about the Cardmember agreement where it pertained to travel insurance. Just sent me some phone numbers and said "ask yourself."

What's the point of travel specialists and concierges if they just make you google and call yourself?
tyberius is offline  
Old Feb 21, 12, 8:16 am
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Originally Posted by tyberius View Post
What's the point of travel specialists and concierges if they just make you google and call yourself?
The concierges are not Amex people - they are employees of Circles (which provides services to many organizations, including some credit cards). Thus, they cannot, nor are they qualified to, answer any questions about Amex insurance / fees / cardholder agreement. You should (and need to) ask "member services" for any of that.

The travel "specialists" are simply employees of a travel agency who works with Amex to provide booking services for cardholders. It's a pretty good contract to have - especially when customers for travel agencies are harder to obtain, with the internet being more prevalent.
That being said, they are normal travel agents, and they work on commission just like any 3rd party agent. The quicker you realize that they have no incentive to "help" do something that is a service (as opposed to selling you a commission-earning product), the happier and less frustrated you will be.
They don't have special pull with bus companies (it's probably professional courtesy stopping them from hanging up when someone asks to arrange a seat on a free bus) - my suggestion would be to stick with concierge for such non-product requests.

YMMV

Last edited by mia; Feb 21, 12 at 8:27 am Reason: Prune quotation
S.Bling is offline  
Old Feb 21, 12, 9:42 am
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I agree with what S. Bling is saying. It's an accurate description of the status quo.

What frustrates many people though is that Amex still tell you that the Cent concierge can do anything and everything for you (as long as it's legal and you are willing to pay for their time if it's some weird request).

Then the OP calls them with fairly bread and butter issues and gets no help whatsoever..
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Old Feb 21, 12, 9:45 am
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The concierges are not Amex people - they are employees of Circles (which provides services to many organizations, including some credit cards). Thus, they cannot, nor are they qualified to, answer any questions about Amex insurance / fees / cardholder agreement. You should (and need to) ask "member services" for any of that.
Amex maintains the charade that the concierges are their people. It is not my business or problem to determine who is a "real" employee or not. When I call in, I get two choices on the voice menu. Concierge or Travel.

If a Concierge has taken a request out of their field, the appropriate thing to do is to FORWARD the request to the right person to handle it.

Dumping phone numbers back and saying do it yourself is the exact opposite behavior of a "concierge."

You ask a concierge to make restaurant arrangements and they say "opentable, do it yourself" or send you the restaurant's phone number... same problem.

The travel "specialists" are simply employees of a travel agency who works with Amex to provide booking services for cardholders. It's a pretty good contract to have - especially when customers for travel agencies are harder to obtain, with the internet being more prevalent.
That being said, they are normal travel agents, and they work on commission just like any 3rd party agent. The quicker you realize that they have no incentive to "help" do something that is a service (as opposed to selling you a commission-earning product), the happier and less frustrated you will be.
They don't have special pull with bus companies (it's probably professional courtesy stopping them from hanging up when someone asks to arrange a seat on a free bus) - my suggestion would be to stick with concierge for such non-product requests.
You have painted this as an absurd request from someone out of the blue to force a poor, overworked travel agent who otherwise makes no money at all, into laboring on a non-commission item.

The reality of it is that they have a travel file with multiple services in it. Plane tickets, hotel reservations. If something in there requires them to book a shuttle in order for it to make logical sense, then so be it.

Otherwise, if I have to do the manual labor of working with this file and then dealing with them on the phone for the other parts of the file, it makes little sense for me to employ their services at all. The travel agent is supposed to be one stop shopping to get you out your door and home again with a single, coherent itinerary, or to supply as much of that as the client needs.

Now, in this case, the Emirates "free bus" is a service that is paid for by your Emirates ticket. You can't get on the "free bus" without an Emirates ticket and you can't get on the "free bus" without a reservation and you can't reserve the "free bus" yourself, the site says "contact your travel agent" which is exactly what I did.

And as said, it's part of my Emirates ticket, on which they made their commission already.

Lastly, I think it's a sad concept that I would have to be counting off what the commission items are and what the percentages are and expect the Centurion Travel Service to be responsive and useful directly in proportion to how much they're making on each individual item.

They are not there to offer me poor service if it's a $30 one day car rental that won't make them a lot of profit and awesome service if I am buying full fare F class for everyone I know.

The service standard should be consistent, because this is what I am contracting with _ Amex _ for. The travel agency is totaling their commissions and averaging them and working in such a way that that is profitable to them. The bigger ones subsidize the smaller ones and everyone benefits.
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Old Feb 21, 12, 11:41 am
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Originally Posted by tyberius View Post
Amex maintains the charade that the concierges are their people. It is not my business or problem to determine who is a "real" employee or not. When I call in, I get two choices on the voice menu. Concierge or Travel.

If a Concierge has taken a request out of their field, the appropriate thing to do is to FORWARD the request to the right person to handle it.

Dumping phone numbers back and saying do it yourself is the exact opposite behavior of a "concierge."

You ask a concierge to make restaurant arrangements and they say "opentable, do it yourself" or send you the restaurant's phone number... same problem.

.

It appears you might be more upset at what happened (unjustifiable as it was) to understand the issues for next time.

There aren't only "two choices on the voice menu, Concierge or Travel" - there are three: "member services" is the third.

You cannot ask concierge to process member service items (neither Amex insurance, nor statement inquiries, nor adding supplemental cards).

Concierge can make reservations and arrange "hard to locate items" - obviously they wouldn't tell you to call "opentable, do it yourself": they would either make the restaurant reservation or not.
In this case, you had asked a 3rd party to pull up your financial account information when they don't (and frankly, shouldn't) have access to that data.

Whether it was known before selecting "option 2" that concierges don't work for Amex, or whether they told you this during the phone call (which is why they directed you to speak with member services) doesn't change the fact that it's similar to asking your lawyer to fix your car and then complaining to the Bar when the lawyer explains they're not licensed mechanics (but politely recommends an auto place to call that specializes in your make/model and can fix the specific problem you're having).

I'm not justifying the way Amex has set the systems up with such compartmentalism - far from it - but that is the status quo; and knowing this is the key to minimising some of the future frustration with Amex that undoubtedly all of us will have at some point.
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Old Feb 21, 12, 6:46 pm
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My experience with CTS has been consistently poor. I only use them to get the Centurion benefits. If I had access to a Centurion website like is offered to Platinum, I would book online and never talk to them.
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Old Feb 21, 12, 8:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Peter Silberman View Post
My experience with CTS has been consistently poor. I only use them to get the Centurion benefits. If I had access to a Centurion website like is offered to Platinum, I would book online and never talk to them.
In HKG, calling CTS often requires me to be on hold and listen to music for a good 10 minutes before I get to speak to someone, and then they screw my reservations, and then they aren't around 24 x 7 so if I need to make a change the airline sometimes tells me "sorry, we can't do it - your travel agent needs to do it". Great but my CTS people only work HKG office hours and I am in Antigua trying to dodge a hurricane...

Always been more trouble than it is worth. I, too only call them if I need to use FHR or some of the other benefits like airport fast-track that come with it.
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