When Marriott acquired Starwood, Marriott Rewards leadership expected to adopt Starwood’s SPG IT platform. They weren’t happy with what Marriott had and were looking into new solutions. Why not just take Starwood’s, after all SPG was viewed as the better loyalty program?
Once they got into things they learned the limitations of the Starwood system. Starwood kept its members in active memory and a legacy Marriott executive tells me that — breakage accoutning aside — expiring accounts with inactivity was necessary as systems ran out of memory. That’s not the stable system that Marriott was looking for.
The transition from Starwood to Marriott didn’t go smoothly however. For weeks after Marriott’s launch of their new unified program, moving Starwood members onto Marriott’s IT platform and launching new rules for earning, redemption, and elite status things were anything but smooth.
There were issues with points crediting properly to accounts, to points transfers to miles, with incorrect account balances and years of lifetime elite status, and cancelled Starwood award reservations not crediting back properly to accounts — to name just a few.
Customer service levels from Marriott have also been a shock to Starwood members, who are used to having the phone answered immediately, used to getting responses from the social media team promptly, and used to having e-mails answered.
Former W Dubai Al Habtoor City
During a Mideast trip, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson spoke about the loss of one-third of Starwood’s Dubai portfolio with the exit of Habtoor properties from the chain. Habtoor Group moved properties to Hilton which agreed to allow them to just franchise in exchange for lower fees.
Meanwhile Marriott’s regional director spoke about the importance of their growth in both the UAE and in Saudi Arabia, something which in the current climate they probably wouldn’t be as open about here in the U.S.
Sorenson was asked about the Starwood Preferred Guest – Marriott Rewards integration. He describes it as “probably a little but more bumpy” than expected, and that “the bulk of the chatter has really been around that.”
Marriott’s CEO, though, calls complaints about the transition “noise around the edges” — some might even consider him to be describing it as fake news.
[M]ore importantly, he said, was how Marriott had done with the substance of the rules.
“By and large I think we’ve navigated that pretty well,” Sorenson said.
“Among 110 to 115 million loyalty members, there’ll be some noise around the edges.”
Now that we’re two months in, how are you feeling about the new Starwood-Marriott joint program transition?