Loyalty programs have long been a staple asset in many hotelier’s revenue and competitive sales strategies – both at the independent level and chain level. However, research has shown that properties with loyalty programs actually generate less competitive sales increases than properties without them.
Part of the reason loyalty programs are increasingly struggling to deliver meaningful impact is that loyalty has traditionally been in only one direction. You, the guest, remain loyal to my property or brand, and I’ll offer you some form of value in return. To create true loyalty with guests, hoteliers should ask themselves what they’re doing to flip the equation. How are we demonstrating loyalty to our guests?
Experience is the New Loyalty
Flipping the perspective on loyalty requires a closer examination of many different aspects of hotel operations, but can be encapsulated by one simple statement. Loyalty isn’t a program, it’s a state of mind. And the guest experience is at the core of this new mindset.
Consider this data point from our recent “Drivers of Change in Hospitality” study. Of the more than 7,000 travelers surveyed, 73% said that the most important thing while traveling is to have a unique experience.
And this unique experience can take any number of different forms. A warm, personalized greeting. Pre-stay advice and offers on trips and experiences that align with the guest’s interests. In-the-moment delights that add nuanced value to the guest’s stay. These are just some of the ways hotels can demonstrate their loyalty to the guest to establish an emotional connection that transcends the value of any loyalty program.
While the mindset of management and staff is certainly crucial to leveraging guest experience to drive two-way loyalty, empowering staff with the means to enhance the guest experience is perhaps even more important. It requires sophisticated guest intelligence capabilities, with rich, centralized guest intelligence that is actionable by all staff members at every guest touchpoint.
3 Insights for Driving Loyalty
Here are 3 ways hoteliers can meet the needs of tomorrow’s guests:
1. Loyalty will come from effort and insight, not from points.
Stellar execution of the basics (including clean sheets, quality food and beverage options, competent staff, etc.) are necessary but not sufficient. The ability to provide service and desirable amenities (not necessarily unique or complex) will ensure guests return to where their individual needs are known and met.
2. Value creation and differentiation comes from both the expected and unexpected.
This will enhance the guest experience and your brand. Exclusivity and experiences that are unique to each property will stand out far more than those that are replicable.
3. Technology is key for supporting these initiatives.
How you collect, summarize, present, and share data will ensure access to guest preferences that will inform what you are able to do to personalize and customize the guest experience. Without a thoughtful platform buildout, companies never achieve these objectives. Hotels and brands need to be part of the discussion as they strategize about the technology and the data they need to be able to personalize their offerings.
For more insight on the trends moving the hospitality industry forward, download our whitepaper “Drivers of Change in Hospitality.” Our largest hospitality study to date offers insight from 7,000 travelers and industry experts.