It's Not Just About the Bonus Points Anymore: Rethinking the Elite Guest Experience
By Shannon Dooley Operations Manager - Quality Assurance Practice, LRA Worldwide | October 09, 2011
It was almost the perfect weekend. In the middle of an otherwise long stretch of business travel, I rewarded myself with a three-night weekend stay at a posh, branded resort just minutes from Las Vegas. For me, the trip was "free" or as free as things get in this day and age. I booked an entirely points based reservation, accumulated through many nights away from home like thousands of other road warriors throughout the world.
As an elite member, I received my anticipated warm welcome upon arrival, an upgraded room, and enjoyed my first day of rest and relaxation in a long time. On day two, just as I was placing my sunscreen into my bag en route to another day of relaxed poolside bliss, I happened to glance at my newly blinking Blackberry... and that's when my "relaxing" weekend came to a screeching halt.
Sometime during the night, the remaining portion of my hotel stay had been cancelled "per my request" or so the cancellation email stated in a polite but firm fashion. As a former hotel ops manager myself, the initial email was annoying but not cause for alarm; after all, these things do, unfortunately, happen.
Reviewing the cancellation notice, I promptly called the number displayed on the email, which was supposed to assist me if there was a problem. I assumed a quick phone call would reinstate the reservation and I would be on my way to enjoying the three-digit Nevada heat in no time. Imagine my surprise when, within seconds of dialing, I was warmly informed that the office was closed, not to reopen until Monday. No alternative number to call, no "press zero" for assistance, just a polite thank you and dial tone. Not quite in a panic yet, I promptly dialed my elite "members only" number, assuming that someone must be available to handle the brand's most loyal guests on a weekend; a knot began to form in the pit of my stomach as I surmised that, at least according to this brand, loyal guests apparently didn't need assistance over the weekend.
The knot expanded as I spoke with the hotel's front desk staff, who gave me the enviable option of either paying rack rate or leaving the property; only after a bit of begging and pleading was a front desk manager able to miraculously reach an "after hours number" for the rewards department and reinstate my reservation. Two hours after my initial email was received, I was finally able to leave my room, albeit in a far more stressed condition than I ever expected. So much for a restful weekend.
Being in the industry, I can (usually) get myself out of a cancelled reservation or mixed-up arrival date without too many challenges and chances are that your best, most loyal guests can as well. After all, they are the ones who literally spend years of their lives in your guestrooms, restaurants, and bars across the globe. They come back to you time and time again for a variety of reasons; yes, perhaps the dollar-to-point ratio may be a key factor, but often times its something larger than that…a consistently clean guestroom, a "we've been expecting you" greeting, maybe even the turndown amenity, that keeps them coming back for another night.
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