Which Hotel Loyalty Programme has the Worst Customer Service?

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After another frustrating weekend where I spent far too much time on the phone speaking to unfortunate half-trained agents working for IHG Rewards Club, a question occurred to me: Which hotel loyalty programme actually has the worst customer service?

I’m sure that InsideFlyer readers will make compelling arguments for all of the main programmes (with the possible exception of Hyatt) – please share your thoughts / war stories in the comments!

My own view

I’ve no idea what Accor customer service is like these days – I find the website so annoying to use that I don’t really stay with the chain anymore. My experience with Hyatt and Radisson Rewards is also too limited to make a meaningful judgement.

As regards Hilton Honors, it might just be luck (or a benefit of Diamond status), but I normally find the agents ‘ok’ – not great, but fine. Which leaves us with Marriott and IHG…

Marriott Bonvoy is bound to be a popular choice for worst customer service, but I think IHG Rewards Club edges it.

Bonvoy’s problems are well-documented, and I’ve certainly done more than my fair share of HUACA-ing when trying to get issues resolved. The thing is though, if you do call back a few times, finding a competent agent doesn’t usually take too long

With IHG, you often begin to wonder whether competent agents even exist.

My most recent experience was genuinely ludicrous. It involved no fewer than 8 different agents (including supervisors) misunderstanding something extremely basic and repeatedly giving incorrect advice, despite the relevant terms and conditions being crystal clear. Eventually, the case was passed on to somebody who knew what they were doing – they understood the issue straight away and resolved things in minutes. If that had happened on the 1st or 2nd call, that would have been fine.

Craig has previously made a similar argument about the joys of IHG Rewards Club, so at least I know I’m in good company!

I want to finish by making it clear that I don’t ever blame individual agents for getting things wrong – it’s fundamentally the responsibility of management to invest properly in the training that employees need.

Which hotel programme do you think has the worst customer service?


  1. Rob Rixon says

    I can only agree with the issues I’ve had in the past and am having with IHG Rewards Club at the moment. I’m now on replies from 4 different agents who have also repeatedly ignored the queries I have put to them and replied with the standard script. I’m about to reply back to them again this morning with a view to asking them diplomatically to escalate the issue to someone who can deal with it. Not sure how much success I will have with that, but patience and perseverance…

    Dealings in the past with Hilton were always fine and Hyatt too. One thing about IHG is that they do respond quite quickly. Just a shame about the substance of their reply.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Yep – absolutely classic IHG. One thing I have learned is that if you do ask for a supervisor, they’re normally happy to find someone, but agents hardly ever offer it proactively as an option even when they clearly can’t help resolve the issue themselves. I assume it’s part of their ‘training’ or to do with their performance indicators. Whether a particular supervisor can actually help or not is a completely different question, of course.

      In terms of getting to speak to someone who genuinely knows what they are talking about, I think my current average is about the 3rd or 4th supervisor.

      My advice is be prepared to feel like you’re banging your head against a wall for a while, but if you do it long enough, you will (probably!) get through to someone competent eventually.

      Good luck!

      • Rob Rixon says

        I haven’t had a reply back yet from the diplomatic response I sent yesterday morning, which means they are a) ignoring me as they normally respond quite quickly or b) potentially formulating a well-thought out response to address all of the issues I have raised with them. Ahem.

        In the interim, I checked my IHG account and found a points reversal for a booking I have made for this week to stay at the IC Berlin. Called IHG who told me the hotel made the cancellation (I didn’t) but couldn’t tell me why. After being passed to three different agents I was eventually transferred to Guest Relations (turns out the ‘Ambassador Service Center’ number just reroutes you to Reservations) and they also couldn’t figure out why the booking had been cancelled and as well as the other agents, could not get in touch with the hotel.

        They have raised a case for me though, which means that the hotel will contact me back ‘within 48 hours’. Which means they could potentially be contacting me while I am actually at the hotel on Thursday. In the end, I’ve e-mailed the hotel directly referring to the case number to see if that garners a quicker response. Highly unlikely I know, but we live in hope.

        And I also have to get in touch with another property to find out why they haven’t put my Greener Stay points on my account from last week.

        Seems like ‘competence’ is dished out in small amounts as far as IHG are concerned!

        • Joe Deeney says

          Haha! – Trust me, I’m not laughing at you but very much with you unfortunately – although a hotel randomly cancelling and then refusing to even speak to IHG’s own agents could be a new low.

          My own current case took a weird turn this morning too. I had finally discovered someone genuinely competent – in something called the “Customer Retention Team” – who had quickly and efficiently resolved a (simple) issue that had somehow baffled every other agent. Basically, he got my free night certificate sorted from a previous promotion. Because it had taken so long to sort out though, there was no longer availability for any of the hotels I wanted (anything in central Boston) on the date I actually wanted to use the certificate.

          I therefore booked a less optimal date and (as a complete long shot) asked the agent if there was any chance at all he might be able to help move the reservation to the date I actually wanted. Staggeringly, he somehow succeeded in doing this and said it was now all cleared with the hotel manager. The reservation on my account still had the original date though, so I asked if he could get the hotel to email me a confirmation directly, just to be certain it had been processed and I would actually have a room.

          This morning, I get an email from a different agent (the good agent is out of office) saying that they had tried to contact the Manager at The Met Hotel in Leeds(!!!???), but had been unable to do so. Apparently I have no need to worry though, because they are going to try again later to see about getting that confirmation of the date change for me. 😉

          I emailed back explaining as carefully as I possibly could that I want to stay in Boston, not Leeds.

          Now, it’s a case of waiting to see what else this agent can screw up before the good agent gets back to the office to sort things out…

          • Rob Rixon says

            Not to worry! Even with the issues I am having, it really is laughable. Literally after I replied to this post this morning, I received an e-mail from a ‘Customer Retention Specialist’ from a [email protected] e-mail address (assume crt is Customer Retention Team) and she managed to get to the bottom of the original query. Which was I didn’t get any points for a stay, as apparently I had booked through a third party website. Which I never do, but they would not believe me. And when I checked in, my booking was under someone else’s name and had an Affiliate Rate on the booking as well which is bonkers. Beginning to wonder how well they are looking after my data…

            Her reply was, ‘I called the hotel this morning to inquire as to why they changed your rate from IHG Rewards Club Sale to a third party rate and I was advised that when you checked in there is no rate indicated on your booking and they had to fill it in with a rate accepted by their system’. Finally! I shouldn’t complain really as a previous agent gave me the points I would have been awarded for the stay as ‘errors can happen’ and this specialist also gave me the same number of points again for the inconvenience.

            Still nothing on the IC Berlin or HIE Dunstable though for Greener Stay points…

            Your case sounds as if it could go anywhere but where you want to stay… Although to be fair, there is nothing wrong with Leeds (lived there for 14 years until last year and did a mattress run at The Met Hotel back in the early part of this year). My wife and I stayed at the IC Boston in June and it was lovely. Decent location on Atlantic Avenue so it’s a shame if you were trying to get that one for your free night. I just hope that the ‘bad’ agent isn’t thinking you want to stay in Boston Spa, which comes under Leeds. Now that would be interesting!

          • Joe Deeney says

            Yeah – I had high hopes for the CRT team, but this new agent is causing me to reconsider. Glad to hear there are at least 2 competent agents there though, which if we are being honest, is miraculous compared to the other teams.

            Ah yes, the old ‘you booked through a third party’ chestnut. I’ve had agents (oddly aggressively sometimes…) repeat that phrase to me over and over again, despite me calmly explaining that I did not and easily proving it by forwarding the IHG confirmation email. The default position seems to be that the customer is definitely wrong, rather than that there might have been an administrative or technological issue worthy of investigation.

            Haha, don’t get me wrong – I love Leeds! I’ve lived in and around the city most of my life. I also mattress-ran The Met, which is presumably where they somehow picked that up from, so at least it wasn’t completely random. That said, a staycation at The Met isn’t going to be a great deal of use to me if I’m in Boston at the time. I didn’t really think much of the Met to be honest – it was ok, but needs a lot of money spent on it to make it genuinely nice.

            IC Boston is excellent and I’ll be spending at least 1 night there (well, I’m supposed to be – you never know with IHG…), but I wanted to try the Kimpton Nine Zero as well this time.

            Realistically, I should probably just cancel my flights now and resign myself to the inevitable weekend in Lincolnshire…

  2. Pangolin says

    Accor was always in a league of its own when it came to terrible CS.

    IHG are just incompetent and clueless; with Accor it was like they went out of their way to be as unhelpful and obstructive as possible. They seemed to actively despise customers. That’s not a situation I’m used to (but then again I’ve never lived in France).
    Usually I’d fight my corner with the likes of IHG and Marriott, knowing that eventually I’ll prevail, but with Accor I never got the feeling that it would be worth carrying on.

    Hilton are the best right now of the major chains, especially now that they have William Sanders as the lurker on their FT forum.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Yes Accor are definitely odd – I mean, they paid someone to create a website so catastrophic that it basically encourages members to book via an ota or stay with a different company entirely. Similarly, the app is a glitchy car crash, and the dashboard when you login using a computer isn’t any better. My account still comes up as Platinum while simultaneously informing me that the Platinum status will expire in 2017. Sadly, Radisson Rewards seem to have hired the same crack team of IT geniuses for their own redesign.

      I had some tangles with Accor customer service years ago, but genuinely can’t think of the last time I stayed at an Accor hotel (at least 18 months ago) – which is a shame, because I think Sofitel, Novotel and Ibis are all pretty solid brands, and the addition of Raffles and Fairmont was potentially great.

  3. Pangolin says

    “My account still comes up as Platinum while simultaneously informing me that the Platinum status will expire in 2017.”

    LOL. That’s very Accor! Maybe you should book a Sofitel and demand lounge access with your “Platinum status” 🙂

    • Joe Deeney says

      Haha, I do occasionally get tempted just to see what would happen. But within 10 seconds of dealing with the Accor website I remember why I don’t book there anymore.

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