Marriott integrated their three loyalty programs last weekend, so it has now been over a week since the new program was introduced. Now that they’ve had several days to figure things out, I thought I’d write this post to reflect on their performance, and I’m curious to hear how you guys feel.
I get that this is a massive project
Let me start by acknowledging that combining three loyalty programs of this size is a massive undertaking. Combined the programs have over one hundred million members, so I wasn’t expecting this to go all that smoothly, and no matter what, I was expecting there would be some hiccups.
Marriott was off to a very strong start
Marriott’s takeover of Starwood closed in September 2016, and they were off to one of the strongest starts I’ve ever seen when it comes to combining loyalty programs. From day one they offered reciprocal status matching and points transfers, which we’ve never seen from programs of this size before.
They were off to a really strong start. Then they took their time with integrating, which I appreciated. I’d rather they integrate the programs correctly and take their time, rather than rush it along.
So earlier this year it was looking like they wouldn’t be integrating before 2019, and then suddenly they announced that they’d be integrating as of August 2018, which caught many of us off guard. A mid-year transition? That’s odd.
My guess is that this was rushed along due to their co-brand credit card agreements, and specifically how American Express and Chase would be introducing a new portfolio of cards, and that would be easier to do with a single program.
At least that’s the only logical answer I could come up with, or maybe there’s something else I’m missing.
Marriott’s loyalty program integration has been incredibly disappointing
Let me start with the positives. I’ve been impressed by how little downtime Marriott’s website had following the transition. Online bookings were back almost immediately, which is hardly surprising, since it’s clear that was a priority. After all, there are huge costs to having their booking system down, since they can’t make money then.
Still, that could have gone horribly wrong, and it didn’t. Unfortunately it seems that smooth transition was mostly limited to revenue bookings, and not to things associated with the loyalty program. Of course there are going to be minor hiccups but there continue to be major issues more than a week into the program merger. Where do we even begin?
- Going in we didn’t realize that we’d still need to combine points after the merger, and many of us are having major issues with that; my first name appears slightly differently on my Marriott and SPG account, and I’ve called four times asking them to fix it, and every time they say it’s fixed… it’s still not fixed
- If you cancel an SPG award booking, the booking will cancel just fine, but no points will be redeposited, so your points will go into a black hole
- For several days it hasn’t been possible to convert Marriott points into airline miles
- It’s still not possible to redeem points at former Starwood all-suites properties online
- Marriott announced we’d be able to make Travel Packages changes, which was great news, but almost everyone has reported that frontline agents are saying that this isn’t possible, in direct contrast to what Marriott management told us
- There are countless reports of inaccurate points balances and elite nights even after combining accounts
- For the most part stays in July and August haven’t been posting to accounts correctly
- Marriott’s terms when it comes to their Platinum suite upgrade policy still hasn’t been updated to what they claim it should be
This is only a small sampling of the issues that readers have shared with me. Let me acknowledge that I’m not an IT guy, but I feel like surely there must have been a better way to go about this. Shouldn’t they have had people formally link accounts so that they would automatically be combined before the programs merged? Maybe they should have done this in stages rather than all at once?
We’ve seen all the major US airlines go through mergers, and I don’t recall their loyalty program integrations ever having this many issues.
I recognize that Marriott combining loyalty programs was no small task. While they were off to a good start in terms of allowing people to match status and transfer points from day one, I really think they should have done better with the actual integration.
There are so many issues that still haven’t been resolved more than a week in, and as members we’re not really sure what we should do. Should I call in because my points haven’t redeposited for reservations I canceled? Should I wait and assume it will happen automatically? I have similar questions in so many areas.
Marriott has the status.marriott.com site, which was supposed to keep us updated about known issues. However, according to this site, “reservations, members accounts, and other major systems functionality are all up and running at this time.” Clearly that isn’t the case. You’d think they could have used this site to actually list known issues, and the status of fixing them, rather than just claiming everything is great.
I’m curious where you guys stand on this. How would you rate Marriott’s performance in the past week since the programs have been integrated? Have you had major issues, or have things gone fairly smoothly for you?