Many lines of prose have been written about the bungling of Marriott Bonvoy, their loyalty program transition. Now that the program has been re-launched, many loyalists are using the peculiar name of the botched program, “Bonvoy”, as a derogatory verb.
You’ve Been “Bonvoyed”
In Facebook Group dialogue and among frequent travelers, the new program name, Bonvoy, has been used to describe yet another issue with the rollout. Have your points posted incorrectly for a stay? You’ve been bonvoyed. Were you denied an upgrade though you qualified and the room was available? You’ve been bonvoyed.
Some enterprising netizen even created Bonvoyed.com, a site that is nothing more than a form filler to post what went wrong with your experience, chronicling the struggles of loyal customers. It’s a digital catharsis for some, amusing brand fail watching for others.
Why Has It Gone So Poorly?
It’s not just that some guests are waiting for stays to be credited from 2018, though some still are. It’s not just the terrible name of the program that doesn’t really resonate with members of Marriott nor of SPG or that they relaunched the program without selecting a name, only to choose a terrible one months later. It’s not just that guests need a decoder ring to decipher which hotels honor which benefits, and then a healthy dose of courage to battle front desk agents to get what is rightfully theirs.
It’s all of these things.
Starwood had such a loyal following and they rightfully earned it. As one fellow speaker at FTU described this weekend, it was a way of life. When SPG Platinums thought of themselves, their hotel choice made them a little chic, sophisticated and different. As my colleague mentioned, they would have been smarter to completely rebrand the program as SPG and hope to inspire all of their guests rather than create something that neither Marriott nor SPG enthusiasts could identify with.
How Could Marriott Right The Ship?
Marriott has sent out invitations to various writers last week offering a paid trip to Hong Kong to showcase the brand in exchange for a pair of posts in two major publications. This writer didn’t receive an invite and wouldn’t have accepted if he had. It’s not because I don’t like free trips (I would), nor that I am too busy (I am but I would make time) – it’s that I wouldn’t feel right about publishing positively about a program I don’t trust and can’t recommend. It’s not that I am bitter, it’s that I’m not interested – and I am not alone.
The mere fact that Marriott is this desperate to drum up positive content about the program demonstrates that the public has taken notice with their poor performance. While I disagree with their approach to right the ship (bribe for puff pieces to turn the tide of public opinion), it does demonstrate that things are going horribly wrong and Marriott recognizes it.
They need to do what no major brand has ever done. They need to admit that they messed it up, relentlessly focus on delivering superior results to their customers, and perhaps even default back to the highly successful SPG program. They admitted that they married up when joining with SPG, why not shock the world, satisfy customers and stir up the entire loyalty community in the process.
Absolutely not. The brand will kowtow to hoteliers who are not eager to give away breakfast or extra points to guests who frequent their properties. While they lose SPG branded hotels who have not enjoyed the transition, they won’t dare tempt the loyal Marriott properties to up their game and be impressive.
Management has recognized that they got it wrong, that the public has noticed and that some are voting with their dollars, enough to order this press junket. Kudos to recognizing the problem and aiming to do something about it. However, if they listen to guests, critics and loyalists they could make the changes right away that would win many back and earn new customers. I am afraid that they will not do this despite clear indications that they should.
What do you think? Have you been bonvoyed? Has your experience been okay or even better under the new program? If it hasn’t, have you left the brand for another chain?