American Express Platinum Service Failure with Priority Pass

Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of American Express products.  My wife and I both carry Platinum cards.  I’ve had mine since the mid-1990s (back when there was no signup bonus!).

I use the FHR program when I need guaranteed 4pm late check out on hotel stays.  I find their return protection to be very strong. And while lounge access benefits have been greatly reduced, now with 5x points on airfare, my charging volume with Amex is going way up again.

The card has an unusual fee structure with a full fee for the first card, a reduced fee for a second card (for an authorized used) then no fee for cards three and four.  Cards three and four still come with Delta lounge access as well as a Priority Pass Select membership.  Being a good son, I added my mother as an authorized user.

Unfortunately, my mother misplaced her Priority Pass Select card so I called Amex to have a replacement sent out.  I simply wanted a replacement lounge card sent to the address on file.  Not a high-risk request.

What a mess this became.

I called Amex and the agent simply transferred me to Priority Pass.  Of course, the PP rep was in a far-away call center and the line was difficult to hear clearly.  That agent couldn’t find my accounts.

I called Amex a second time and asked the agent to stay with me while they connected me to PP, which he did.  Yet another far-away PP call center rep answered.  We spent 16 minutes on the phone (my telephone has a timer) trying to sort out which account we were calling about and sort through three security questions about my mother.  Unfortunately, I could only answer two of them and even though I knew her address on file and her Priority Pass card number, and had an Amex rep on the line, they wouldn’t send a replacement card to her at the address they had on file (which hadn’t changed in over a year).

Finally the Amex rep released the PP rep and said he would try to figure it out.

Fifteen minutes on hold later, he was back and said a new PP card was coming.  He wouldn’t explain what he did, and I didn’t push too hard on it.  I appreciate whatever this fellow did to arrange the card being sent.

Overall, this took more than 30 minutes, two calls by me, significant hold times and difficulties communicating with call centers far away.

I asked the rep to submit this internally, but figure I’ll share it here with the hopes that Amex can actually pick this up.

  1. Amex should internalize their handling of Priority Pass accounts.  Getting a new or replacement PP card sent should be something an Amex rep is able to just click on a computer screen and have a daily batch of card requests fed across electronically to Priority Pass.  These are low-risk transactions.  Such an approach would save time on the phone (and save money) for both Amex and Priority Pass.
  2. Amex should amend all of their premium card customer service processes so that their trained telephone reps aren’t simply passing their clients off to outside firms – and certainly not to firms with overseas call centers.  I have found most Amex Platinum telephone reps to be very capable over the years and rarely do calls take too long.
  3. Finally, Amex should drop the IVR system for Platinum customer service.  Chase Sapphire Reserve (and Preferred) have reps that answer calls directly – no call tree to navigate.  Use the savings from how you handle the Priority Pass cards and re-deploy those dollars here!

For a 20+ year cardholder, these 30+ minutes for a simple, low-risk request were particularly frustrating.  I’m happy to pay Amex over $1,000 in fees (Platinums, plus Delta Reserve) year after year, so long as the service level is there.

Today, it wasn’t.

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