The Evolution of Hotel Loyalty Programs: What Guests Expect in 2013

By Bram Hechtkopf Vice President of Business Development & Marketing, Kobie Marketing | April 21, 2013

A popular TV commercial this winter featured AT&T's "It's Not Complicated" campaign. A serious-looking adult asks a group of school children several obvious questions like is "two better than one?" or is "bigger, better?" The children answer these questions with playful humor and blunt honesty. Duh, two is better than one! A quick Googling of the AT&T campaign returns some 2.2 million search results. Clearly the commercials are a hit.

They're a hit because their messaging resonates with all of us, not just six-year-olds. Faced with more options, more amenities and more service capabilities, what right-minded consumer wouldn't embrace those benefits? That same logic applies to hotel guests and the loyalty programs they enjoy. If the last five years have been about wedding mobile to traditional loyalty programs and expanding the mobile experience throughout the hotel (loyalty and mobile phase 1.0), guests are now embracing ever-more complex and experience-driven ways to enjoy the hotel of their choice.

We are witnessing an evolution (some would argue it's a revolution) in the ways guests incorporate mobile devices they already use daily for work and play into their travel and hotel experiences. Benefits like mobile check-in, concierge services, room service and daily deals are just the beginning. Thanks to the technology guests rely on elsewhere, they've become what's called "always-addressable consumers" – individuals whose brand engagement occurs anytime, anywhere, on any device.

That's how "perks" become must-haves. Wi-Fi, for instance, was once considered an "extra". Today, some 88% of hotel guests expect free Wi-Fi and they expect the service to be reliable fast; just like their office or home experience.

The good news is that when guests' omnichannel experiences are overseen through management styles that unite CRM and loyalty programs, those guests become OmniEmpowered Members. The results are happier, more engaged guests where the bringing together of people, process and technology help, in a worst-case scenario, resolve downstream hotel loyalty snags more efficiently and a best-case scenario that promotes brand ambassadors outright. In other words, guests benefit as much from travel management technology and the emergence of total customer experience management (CEM) as they do from the loyalty program itself. Combined, these upgrades are laying the groundwork for delivering the loyalty offerings today's guests have come to expect.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.