Sometimes, they make you wonder... What idiot designed this system for customer service??

Consider that Marriott, a world leader in hotels and guest services, has a toll number that you need to call to handle anything about your account. (For me, I called to consolidate a couple of different account numbers into one account).

I called today to book a reservation at the Savannah Riverside Marriott for a keynote presentation I'll be doing. That transaction was handled wonderfully. But I did not have my Honored Guest Number in front of me and, when the woman looked it up using my name and address, she found a couple of accounts. So, she booked under one of them at random since she could not tell the main account number, apologized for not being able to handle that part of the transaction for me, and apologized for having to give me a toll number to call since she also could not transfer me. Thump, Thump.

(And it is never a good idea to make your people apologize for not being able to do simple things that the customer might expect them to do -- she obviously had been through similar transactions before. After a hundred of these or so, it does get a bit frustrating for most customer service people!).

Anyway, I call the 801 toll number in Salt Lake City.

"Thank you for calling. Marriott's Automated Account Line can handle blah, blah, blah for these other transactions... Please Hang Up and dial 800... (One might think that you could hit "two" and be transferred or whatever but I guess the recognize that you are not calling on a toll-free line but "on your own quarter" when you need to speak to Guest Services about your Honored Guest Account.)

But then, a "guy-automated-voice" comes on and says,

"Thank you for calling Marriott's Guest Services. We are experiencing a high volume of calls. Please call back later and we will be happy to assist you. (click)"

Okay. They are cutting costs and have understaffed the office to handle the transactions of what one can assume are their best customers, the ones who have "frequent guest cards." And they do not put you on hold but make you listen to the automated information and then hang up on you.

But it must be an unusual and temporary situation. I will call back.

So, an hour later, I call again and listen to the same Automated Account Line information and then the same guy comes on and hangs up on me again.

So, an hour later, I call again and listen to the same Automated Account Line information and then the same guy comes on and hangs up on me again.

So, an hour later, I call again and listen to the same Automated Account Line information and then the same guy comes on and hangs up on me again.

Okay -- what is wrong with this picture?

Being a "systems" kind of guy, in my database is a telephone number for a supervisor in the Salt Lake City Office who has helped me before in a difficult situation and who I'd even sent a nice letter to the corporate offices about. Natalie. I have her direct telephone line to the main offices there and her extension -- so I give that a shot.

An operator answers and I ask to speak to Natalie at her extension. There is a pause and it is obvious that she is not working there anymore, since it had been a couple of years. So I explain my frustration to the operator. She says that all she can do is transfer me back to the same 801 toll number. I say that this will do nothing but hang up on me for a fifth time so she transfers me to "Mark." (no name or title offered)

After a pause of 30 seconds, "Mark" answers (no name or title offered) and I explain the situation and why I think it is incongruous to have the system hang up on what one might perceive as their best customers!

But before he explains that he CANNOT help me and all that he can do is transfer me back to the same toll number. Paradoxically, he seems most interested in how I got the direct number for these offices. He does not seem at all interested in helping solve the problem or the fact that I find this "customer service situation" of interest or anything like that.

He offers only to transfer me to the 4000 toll number, which of course makes me listen to the Automated Guest Services announcement for the 5th time and then hangs up on me. Again!! So, as I write this, I have still not consolidated my accounts as I intended hours ago. Guess I will fax them the request since calling obviously doesn't work.

But -- funny -- now I remember that my problem and what Natalie helped me with was that their FAX machine was continously busy (for almost 10 hours) and that they were in need of a written document from me to handle a transaction before I left the States for Asia. Natalie gave me her fax number so I could send it in. I sent my letter and Natalie later got back to me that they got more phone lines and fax machines in the Guest Services Area to handle this problem.

Ain't that a hoot?

And I doubt that I am the only customer experiencing this problem this morning since they admit they are overloaded with calls and I also doubt that this is the only day which this problem has ever occurred.

Wish they would fix this "hangup" problem or at least add an 800 number so I am not paying for their labor / staffing savings.

Is this they way you would treat your "Honored Customers?"


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