Marriott-SPG Integration – A Reminder that Loyalty Programs Aren’t All that Important to These Companies

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The big day for Marriott’s long-planned integration of Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred came on August 18, 2018.

Things are far from seamless. Systems continue to have outages. Account information is wrong for many. Functionality continues to be missing, with timelines of days, weeks, or months to be resolved. The program won’t even have its new, official name until 2019.

This is a huge task, though one that should not be unmanageable. Marriott has the resources and gave itself time of its own choosing.

How We See Things

We points travelers tend to think of airlines and hotels as two pillars:

  1. The loyalty program
  2. The rest

We make our travel decisions as a weighting of the two, where the loyalty program may outweigh everything else.

How They See Things

These companies think very differently. Loyalty programs are part of their marketing offer, and are often money-markers, but are far down the org chart.

As I wrote about for American Airlines, I am not aware of any airline or hotel where the loyalty program head directly reports to the CEO.

Marriott lists 21 members of its Executive Leadership. No Marriott Rewards.

Marriott Executive Leadership

Best I can piece together from public sources:

  1. David Flueck, Senior Vice President, Global Loyalty reports to
  2. Karin Timpone, Global Marketing Officer reports to
  3. Stephanie Linnartz, Global Chief Commercial Officer reports to
  4. Arne M. Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer

‘Quit Gnashing Teeth’

I’ve heard Mr. Flueck speak at a conference. He is an impressive thinker. I have no reason to think any different of Ms. Timpone and Ms. Lizzartz.

The fact of big corporations is that 3 steps removed from the CEO is a big distance. Expecting the CEO to be in the war room issues orders for the program integration is not how they see things. ‘Quit gnashing teeth’ is a solid admonition because you care a lot more than they do.

The timing of ending the phone hotline for Mr. Marriott’s Office of Consumer Affairs is suggestive.

Focus energy on feedback to areas where you feel they’ve gotten policy wrong. I’ve done that on the Travel Packages. Or, where immediate travel plans are negatively impacted.

Realize that everything needs to go up the chain of command and back down. The Monday partial walk back of the Saturday Travel Packages announcement is fast in a big corporation. The gatekeepers of these executives may have already said that anything integration related can wait till Monday.

We may not like the speed of things. This is the reality we deal with. Focus on them getting things right more than doing things fast.

The IT stuff that, if not fixed today, will be fixed tomorrow, or the day after, or the week after…I’m not getting bent out of shape. Though I do notice that the Chief Information Officer does report to the CEO. They might be having some meetings this week.

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4 years ago

Thanks for your post Stefan. I wonder which Executives knew and/or were responsible for this tactics? From Wikipedia: In February 2012, Bloomberg reported on Romney’s years overseeing tax matters for Marriott, which had included several “scams” (quoting Sen. John McCain) and legal actions brought against Marriott, which Marriott lost in court, over its manipulations of the U.S. Tax Code.[28][29] On October 3, 2014 the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Marriott $600,000 for unlawful use of a “containment” feature of a Wi-Fi monitoring system to deliberately interfere with client-owned networks in the convention space of its Gaylord Opryland Resort &… Read more »

4 years ago

So this is what your basing your headline on ? I sincerely doubt that the rewards program is not all that important to Marriott. They were among the first to develop a real system wide rewards or loyalty program back in the early 80’s I for example am one of the early members with 4400 room nights todate, so not important ? I suggest you should have queried Marriott before posting this, maybe you would have a better fact basis to write this. This is not written so much as a rebuttal but more to accurate posting and that I… Read more »