Tag Archives: digital

How Marriott failed at customer service and gave me a family member

8th May 2011

Preface: This is one LONG post, so apologies in advance. But I promise there are two stories involved, and I think at least one is pretty awesome. Hopefully you will too.

I’m a digital native to nearly every sense of the phrase. For example, I don’t think I have visited a real bank location since I opened by account at age 16 and my answer to anything and everything seems to be Google. So last week when I had to opt to book a hotel for an upcoming wedding over the phone, I was out of my comfort zone to say the least.

I was using a group code that would not work online and opted to quickly call and make the reservation. As soon as I hung up the phone I joked with my roommate on how uncomfortable I felt sharing my information with a stranger, when in reality that stranger is likely a 1000x safer than any untraceable Internet form.

Here’s where the story splits and adds in a little irony.

Later that night I received a forwarded email from jdennihy@X.com vs my kdennihy@X.com email address.  J had forwarded along my Marriott hotel itinerary that had been sent to her email instead.

A small mistake, but one that would certainly not have been made online.

The first thought that came to mind was that conversation about security with my roommate. The foreseeable “safe” route had now potentially compromised my personal information to a complete stranger (maybe not complete, we will get to that later in the story).

Naturally, I contacted Marriott to alert them of the situation. I asked to have A. my confirmation number changed so my information would not be public and B. the correct email address put on my account so J wouldn’t have to continue to receive my bothersome hotel emails.

After a quick response from Marriott, I learned that A. the information wasn’t personal, only my hotel dates and location were shared and B. the only way I could change this would be to cancel my reservation and try again or sign up for their rewards program, where they may be able to help.

Now, I’m not the type to gripe about little errors, after all, I really just wanted my email changed, but poor customer service led me down a rabbit hole of discontent, so let’s back up.

I can cancel my reservation and make a new one (and risk this happening again? I know a pebble of a chance, but really? No thanks) or join the Marriott Rewards program (because the help has been stellar so far and I’d really like to book again in the future, say five minutes from now? I’d rather not). I opted for neither and haven’t received any further communication from Marriott.

Now every story has a silver lining. And I know this post is getting quite lengthy, but believe me, after that rant, you’re safe to know the rest of the post will be worth it.

My last name isn’t common. In fact, I have never met someone outside of my own relatives to spell Dennihy the same way. After receiving my hotel confirmation from J, I quickly emailed her back first thanking her for not being a crazy person, since you never know who’s hands information could fall into these days, and second to share my thoughts on the namesake.

After back and forth emails, J finally suggested we look each other up on Facebook to see if we had any family member in common. Surely that would settle things. Low and behold it did. Two of my close cousins turned out to be mutual friends even though J had never met them and they simply friended every Facebook user with the name “Dennihy” about a year ago. J and I exchanged family names trying to find the connection.

I made a quick call to my Dad sharing the information to learn that J’s Grandfather was my Grandfather’s only brother. Even more interesting, our family had since lost touch with her father and since my Dad was a kid. Wow. J and I exchanged information, which confirmed the connection, and suddenly I learned of a whole new set of family members of which I had never known.

I shared the news with my Grandmother, who was ecstatic to say the least. So there you have it, again digital wins. Thanks to an email chain and social networks, I have uncovered an entire side of my family I never knew existed. Even if Marriott fails at customer service, at least I can find comfort in the fact that they shared my information with a rather interesting stranger (better yet, a newly discovered third cousin).

SXSW: Lessons Learned

17th March 2011

To say SXSW was a whirlwind would be an understatement. On the plane, my colleagues and I met someone who told us the weekend would be very similar to Inception. As soon as we stepped off the plane, picked up our badges, headed to 6th St., and so on, we would enter a level further down into what would be a non-stop weekend.

He couldn’t have been more correct. By day two I had lost track of day, time and even seemed to have forgotten how bad my feet hurt from all of the walking we had done.

However, I don’t think I’ve ever had a more rewarding experience in such a short period of time. From the moment we arrived in Austin until we landed in Atlanta Tuesday night, we absorbed information, met amazing people and experienced some of the best Austin had to offer.

In retrospect, below are a few of the lessons learned from this great city.

More than a conference. There are a lot of REALLY smart people speaking at SXSW. The trouble is, there are a LOT of really smart people speaking at SXSW. Making decisions on which panel to see and getting there far enough in advance to get in was tough. I didn’t get to see nearly as many as I would have wished, but I did get to hear from some really great people as well such a Dennis Crowley, Jason Calacanis and Andrew Bosworth to name a few.

Digital reality. There were more great digital activations from brands that I could count, everywhere we looked someone was doing something cool, insightful or just plain fun. Photo and video booths seemed to be a big trend this year, but a few really set themselves apart in simple ways. SoBe for instance, hosted an outdoor bar with a virtual photo booth where you could dress yourself up on screen and send a video message. Once it was complete, it revealed a QR code to scan and send your video to friends. Easy.

Who needs sleep. We went non-stop for at least 17 hours each day. No hotel stops, no naps, not even sitting for lunch sometimes (but with so many delicious food trucks, who would want to?). It was exhausting, but with so much going on around us, it was exactly how we wanted to experience SXSW.

Party school. There are no shortage of sponsored parties at SXSW. However, that didn’t mean our nights out weren’t informative. I learned more from seeing what other brands and agencies had put together and spending my nights meeting new and interesting people than I often did at any daytime panel.

Looking to the future. Perhaps the best part of SXSW had to be the general excitement and buzz about everything new and groundbreaking happening in the interactive space. From activations like the GE Solar Powered Carousel to new apps like Hashable and GroupMe, the momentum was endless.

In all, Austin was far more than a few days in a new city, but refreshing and a reminder as to why I love what I do. I cannot wait to see how this week transforms how we all interact with technology in 2011.

SXSW Day 2: Everything is Only 1% Finished

13th March 2011

Today I had the opportunity to visit the new Facebook Austin offices. The space largely unfinished with an industrial feel. Digging deeper, the team explained the reasoning behind the design, everything we do should always be only 1% finished.

There is always a problem to be solved, and a problem still exists not because its solution is impossible, but that someone hasn’t been impatient enough to do something about it.

A professor of mine at UGA, Dr. Scott Shamp, always challenged his students to make something work, then make it work better. These same mentalities can be applied to everything SXSW is about. Innovating, pushing the envelope and changing the way people interact.

Social moves beyond a singular tweet or Facebook post and in-between your TV, mobile phone, a screen at an event and beyond. It’s always 99% new, 1% familiar. The platforms, devices and apps will change, it’s our job to learn how, why and when people will interact with technology in their daily lives and hopefully learn to be a little more impatient while getting there.