On Saturday August 18 Marriott’s new loyalty program launched. While they still maintain separate names for Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards those programs all are now the same. tarwood accounts were moved over and they’re all now on Marriott’s IT platform.
On a scale of travel company IT integrations, things didn’t go nearly as well as the largest one — American Airlines-US Airways — nor nearly as badly as the biggest debacle United-Continental.
While they managed to get functionality up quickly to book reservations, even now 9 days later there are several lingering issues. I spoke with David Flueck, Marriott’s Senior Vice President of Global Loyalty, to get a sense for where things stand — what bugs are still outstanding, and when we can expect those to be resolved.
The good news is that:
- Most functions work, from earning points to redemption
- Nothing is lost they still have all of their data so everything that’s not accurate in a member account right now is recoverable
There Have Been Integration Issues and Marriott Hasn’t Communicated Enough
David Flueck began our call by noting how much of a milestone August 18th was for Marriott, and how complex an undertaking bringing together “more than 4 billion records in the integration” is, and that while they did extensive testing they knew it wouldn’t be perfect. He acknowledges that “over 99.9% success” still means too many erros “given the size of membership base, 110 million members.”
He was talking to me about this because he “acknowledge[s] members are frustrated” and that it’s not unreasonable for them to expect their accounts to be accurate. Fortunately he thinks they’re days away from having “most things in good shape.”
Meanwhile they’re updating the status.marriott.com to give better and more granular updates on where issues stand. Right now it seems to suggest all is well, and that’s frustrated members who see problems with their accounts and worry that they’ve been left behind.
What’s Not Working, and When It’ll Get Fixed
Here’s where the head of Marriott loyalty says issues stand:
- Elite status. Flueck recognizes that “early last week many members’ status was not correct. We cleaned up that data as the week went on. Nearly all members should have status correct.”
- Recent stay posting. He says that they’ve gotten mostly caught up posting stays “in the last 24-48 hours” and that “we think we’ll have all the recent stays [brought] over by tomorrow.” However “some bonus nights members get, the Amex credit card which gives bonus nights, [50 night choice benefits] which can give bonus nights, some of those files haven’t come over perfectly so the team is working on that and we’ll make progress in the next couple of days.”
- Other points posting. Marriott is “catching that up from our card partners” and though I haven’t seen points from either of my Starwood Amex cards post yet this month Flueck says he “believe[s] most of that has now come in. I would wait until tomorrow morning.”
He does say that there have been “a couple of instances where new Amex cardmembers have had a hard time associating with the new Marriott number ” but he’s correct to also say that things like that happen all the time. Right now it’s being blamed on the integration. In fact I’d go a step further and say I had plenty of frustrations with Marriott IT even before the integration…
- Point balances. When some members cancel certain awards (mostly legacy Starwood awards), points haven’t gone straight back into their accounts. “We are diagnosing and will solve that likely in the next couple of days.” He does thing that balances should otherwise be correct at this point however notes that if something is off in an individual case “we still have all of the systems, no matter what members won’t lose points or nights.”
- Points transfer to miles. This has mostly been fixed, it is now possible to transfer Marriott points to miles again. The one outstanding issue is that the cap in place on how many points can be transferred in a day is incorrect. It “[s]hould be 240,000 points, right now it’s at 80,000.” (I actually think this should be capped at below 240,000 since 240,000 would imply 80,000 miles + 20,000 bonus miles for 100,000 total and I don’t believe they post more than 99,999 airline miles in a day.)
- Combining accounts. At first the system was rejecting members who tried to combine accounts where there wasn’t an exact name match. Now the “last name must be exact but a shortened form first name now is allowed” and “junior or roman numerals no longer need to match.”
Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
What Should You Do If Something Still Isn’t Right
There’s still data coming over, getting added, and getting checked though it sounds like they believe things will be pretty much right within a couple of days, which in IT time hopefully means by the end of the week. If that happens they’ll have things sorted and well-functioning within two weeks.
I’ve been telling anyone that asks over the last week that they should just hang back and wait this out unless they had immediate travel plans or needed to make a booking right away. Calling in hasn’t really made sense, Flueck acknowledges that with “complicated questions that’s generated long waits” for the agents trained to handle those. He suggests that for folks who don’t have immediate travel needs to submit an email through their website for assistance.
And make sure that your accounts are combined. When I first tried to combine mine I got an error. When it worked successfully I didn’t even realize it, I needed to log out and log back in to see my points total increment despite assurances during the process that the points part was instant.
The key to understand is that folks who had a Starwood account and a Marriott account now really have two Marriott accounts. It has a Marriott 9-digit number and it’s on the Marriott IT platform. And just like if you wound up with two Marriott accounts before the merger, you could have them combined.
- You may have linked your account in the past, that doesn’t combine accounts.
- Going to the Starwood site, logging in there with one account, and then going to the Marriott page may keep you logged in. Or your browser may default to the same account details. Make sure if you think points are missing that you are looking at your separate Marriott and Starwood account number, and that you then combine the two.
The Next Few Days Matter a Great Deal
I asked David what sort of grade he’d give Marriott for this integration and he wasn’t willing to do that, insisting it’s “too early, we all knew this was going to be an incredibly complex process and we had our teams ready to work through the issues as they arose. We, like our members, are incredibly eager to get all the accounts right.”
Ultimately they think they’re close. They know there will be a handful of other issues that affect members and they’re committed to fix those.
Marriott chose the date to do the cutover, they planned the resources they’d need, so they own the extent to which this has dragged on longer than it should have. However if they do get issues sorted in the next few days I think they’ll be able to move past this without too much baggage.