Follow Up: My Telephone Call With a Starwood Representative
A s I reported on Friday, January 16, 2015, my Starwood Preferred Guest frequent guest loyalty program account was compromised; and I gave the details of what I did to ensure that my account was restored without losing any Starpoints.
I received an unexpected call yesterday from a reservations supervisor from the corporate office of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Incorporated. I missed the call; so I returned the telephone call today and spoke to an agent of Starwood Preferred Guest. I found out that the purpose of the telephone call was to check in and ensure everything was all right. They asked for information from me — such as my postal address — to verify that I was me.
After it was determined that everything was all right, she asked if the activity pertaining to the gift cards was mine — to which I said no, that I would never redeem Starpoints for gift cards. I then said that now we know why it can take up to six weeks for the recipient to receive the gift cards, as that gave ample time for those fraudulent transactions to be canceled. She agreed that it was a good thing…
…and then she told me about how some people call in the next day after redeeming Starpoints, asking why they had not yet received their gift cards. Although I am sure they have their reasons, I cannot imagine in general why anyone would need a gift card delivered as soon as possible.
She then told me that I would not believe some of the things people say to her on the telephone even though she has been employed there for a few years. People have called her stupid and other derogatory names, criticizing her rudely when she was trying to do her job, and other things where she would go home to her husband after work and say to him that she had thought she had heard them all until one call she received that day…
That reminded me of my visit to a customer support reservations center operated by Delta Air Lines in Seattle before it closed in 2012. I specifically remembered the comment recounted from one female employee pertaining to a telephone call with a customer who hoped that she and her family would “die in a plane crash” for not being able to seat all of the members of the family of the customer together on a flight.
“Well, they know they will never see my face”, said the Starwood employee, implying that it is easy these days due to technology for people to purposely be mean and cruel to others. She was not complaining, though. She sounded bright and cheerful, willing to assist in any way she can. I cannot imagine someone calling her stupid.
As the result of my visit in 2012 — which was truly memorable — a call to a customer support reservations center of an airline never has been the same for me; and the same goes for agents of a lodging company. I find myself appreciating what they do each time I speak to one of them; and I try to inject something personal into the conversation to brighten his or her day. It is not easy sitting or standing all day talking on the telephone to customers — especially when they are irate — and having to limit each call to a certain duration of time.
Perhaps call centers should occasionally open up their operations to their customers so that they can see for themselves and have a better idea of just how hard they work to satisfy customers.
To help reduce the chances of your frequent travel loyalty program account becoming compromised, consider following these steps as imparted to me by a member of the account integrity department of Starwood Preferred Guest:
Do not use your e-mail address as your user name or identification to log into different Internet web sites
Use a complex password and regularly update it
Use different credentials — passwords and user names, as two examples — to log in for each of your accounts in different frequent travel loyalty programs
Always check your account regularly
Promptly report any potential suspicious activity
…and I hope that one day, the information technology aspect will be strengthened to ensure that sensitive data is as secure as possible for all of us who are members of frequent travel loyalty programs; and do it with as little inconvenience as possible to us.
Meanwhile, I appreciated my telephone call with a Starwood representative to follow up and ensure that everything was indeed all right — as well as the professional manner in which this situation was handled.