Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Creating Loyal Guests with a Rewards Program That Does More

Can you do me a favor? Take a minute to think about all the stuff you have accumulated from all of the loyalty and reward programs you signed up for at one time or another. From keychain fobs, to punch cards, to mobile apps–you might be surprised at how many ways businesses present these programs to their customers. Because you probably skipped the fine print, you probably know very little about how the program actually works. So, all of these reward programs have done little more than weighing down your keys, cluttering your wallet, or consuming some home screen real estate. This is a key flaw to most loyalty programs–they’ve ballooned into more of a marketing effort than a true rewards program.

Cue the hospitality industry. While the typical points system (think: earning points towards room upgrades and free nights) is miles ahead of the punch card in building consumer loyalty, hotel reward programs have the potential to do even more in building truly brand-loyal guests.

At the heart of hospitality is delivering an exceptional guest experience. Today, guests expect brands to provide consistent experiences that ease their stay from booking to check-out. That includes your rewards program. Below are three ways to ensure your rewards program is not only meeting your guests’ expectations, but easing their overall experience.

Personalization Is Good, Prediction Is Better
Thanks to shifts in consumer expectations, personalization is no longer the exception, but the rule. In fact, in a 2017 study, Deloitte cited personalized experiences as one of the main guest expectations for their hotel stays. Some brands have stepped up to the plate to include some personalization in marketing promotions, but think of the potential of working true personalization into their rewards program experience. When a rewards program is done right, it is a great resource to launch personalized experiences for your guests, that will in turn provide some major wins for your business. You can use it to get to know guests individually, which allows you to personalize and, more importantly, to recommend experiences for your guest. On the other hand, you guest will feel valued, as their experience is made easier. Easier experience? Happy guest? You’re on track for a loyal guest that will continue to return to your hotels time and time again.

What’s Your Brand’s Personality?
Cookie-cutter reward programs are abundant. Guests have experienced the standard “earn points towards perks” process…but they probably haven’t experienced your brand’s personality. Drive brand differentiation by including unique experiences that capture the spirit of your brand. One hotel chain doing this? Virgin Hotels Chicago. From their social media presence (that could easily be mistaken for a millennial lifestyle blog) to the way they personalize their rewards guests’ experiences (their favorite cocktail can be at the ready upon check-in), they let their personality shine throughout every touchpoint with their guests–before, during, and after their stay!

Ditch the Fine Print
In the hyper-competitive hospitality industry, guests have ample choices. That means reward programs with highly-restrictive or confusing redemption policies won’t fly. It’s time to simplify the process to join, stay up-to-date, and redeem program rewards–or, better yet, include instant rewards to use during that stay, and your program will surely retain more satisfied guests of all ages.

“Flexibility in how to redeem points and the ease with which customers can redeem those points are the key drivers of customer satisfaction in this space, which makes forming strong partnerships with third-party service providers a priority for hotel loyalty programs.” Rick Garlick, Travel and Hospitality Practice Lead at J.D. Power

Rewards programs have the potential to be so much more than just points, rewards, and discounts. With an experience-centric mindset, hospitality brands can reimagine their rewards programs so they become a resource to get to know their guests better. More importantly, a revamped, truly guest-centric reward program will simplify and add value to the guest’s overall experience with your brand–two guaranteed ways to cultivate true guest loyalty.