How Hotel Brands Can Activate Loyalty Data to Create Great Experiences

The Persistence of Memory

By Allison Ferguson Senior Strategist, Merkle Inc. | July 23, 2017

When I travel for business, I often return to the same city frequently - and when I do, I usually check into my favorite hotel. No matter how many times I return to that hotel, however, the front desk agents always treat me as if it's my first stay. They acknowledge my platinum status, certainly, and welcome me by name. After that, however, the desk agent will ask for my photo ID and credit card - just as they did the last ten times I checked into the same hotel.

This phenomenon may bother me more than the average traveler because I'm a loyalty marketing consultant, and I know that somewhere behind the scenes, there's a hotel property management system containing a data set rich with insight about my travel habits, transactional history, frequency of stay, preferred amenities, and other useful information about me. The problem: The hotel isn't using that data.

Imagine if, instead of providing the standard arrival greeting, the agent greeted me by saying, "Welcome back, Mrs. Ferguson. We trust you've been well since your last stay with us three weeks ago. I see by your file that you prefer room 1116 - would you like to book it again? That's great. We've already entered your usual 3pm checkout into the system. Just so you know, the workout facility is open 24-7 with keycard access. And as you've dined in our restaurant during the last two stays, we've rewarded you with a complimentary appetizer or dessert during your next dining visit. Please enjoy your stay!"

Instead of treating me as if they've never met me before, the hotel team would demonstrate memory of my relationship with them. Such a demonstration would go a long way toward locking in my loyalty.

Loyalty Program Value Lies in the Data

The real value of loyalty programs, we know, has always been in the data they generate. A "persistent ID" enables the tracking of member behavior, regardless of payment type, channel, or booking method. With this connected visibility, hoteliers can, in theory, develop a full view of their customer relationships and assess the value of individual members to the brand. In exchange for this access to their behavior, loyalty program members receive a suite of program incentives, such as rewards, upgrades, and offers, as illustrated below:

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Coming up in December 2018...

Hotel Law: New Administration - New Policies

In a business as large as a hotel and in a field as broad as the law, there are innumerable legal issues which affect every area of a hotel's operation. For a hotel, the primary legal focus includes their restaurant, bar, meeting, convention and spa areas of their business, as well as employee relations. Hotels are also expected to protect their guests from criminal harm and to ensure the confidentiality of their personal identity information. These are a few of the daily legal matters hotels are concerned with, but on a national scale, there are also a number of pressing issues that the industry at large must address. For example, with a new presidential administration, there could be new policies on minimum wage and overtime rules, and a revised standard for determining joint employer status. There could also be legal issues surrounding new immigration policies like the H-2B guest-worker program (used by some hotels and resorts for seasonal staffing), as well as the uncertain legal status of some employees who fall under the DACA program. There are also major legal implications surrounding the online gaming industry. With the growing popularity of internet gambling and daily fantasy sports betting, more traditional resort casinos are also seeking the legal right to offer online gambling. Finally, the legal status of home-sharing companies like Airbnb continues to make news. Local jurisdictions are still trying to determine how to regulate the short-term apartment rental market, and the outcome will have consequences for the hotel industry. The December issue of Hotel Business Review will examine these and other critical issues pertaining to hotel law and how some companies are adapting to them.