What makes a guest feel most valued? How can hotels show guests that they value them with unique perks and amenities to make them feel like VIPs and keep them coming back? The hospitality landscape is, arguably, more competitive than ever before. The stakes — and the revenue potential — are high, as are guest expectations. In this sense, the guest holds all the power. After all, modern guest loyalty isn’t so easy to come by. In fact, studies show that loyalty is in decline as consumers are switching brands more frequently than ever before. A McKinsey & Company study also suggests that having a basic rewards program isn’t a surefire way of building loyalty and driving sales. Yet, while working to adapt to (and find success within) this ‘Age of the Customer,’ hoteliers aptly realize that — while a seemingly fickle concept — guest loyalty is incredibly valuable to their bottom line. However, they also see that loyalty programs of the past simply don’t work that well anymore. Thos Kozik, Vice President of Loyalty at Marriott Hotels, explains, “Points are not the point anymore. We weren’t keeping track of how consumers were changing their behavior.”
It’s Really About Recognition
If the loyalty programs of the past are seemingly on the same decline as legacy technology, how do the loyalty programs of the future look? The emergence of new technology to replace antiquated platforms is rather apparent, but in the case of loyalty programs, how can hoteliers determine what truly strikes a chord with their most valuable guests? How can they encourage loyalty in an age where guest loyalty is increasingly evasive?
The answer doesn’t lie in the abandonment of the loyalty program altogether — instead, it’s about taking a re-imagined approach while taking cues from current guest demands and trends. Let’s look to the dominant service trends that have emerged thus far this year: personalization, the experience economy, and guest-centric technology. The modern guest isn’t simply seeking a roof over their head and a bed to sleep in while traveling; they crave a unique, share-worthy experience. They selectively book with those hotels which take the time to get to know their needs and expectations, and can, therefore, offer a more personalized experience. Ultimately, they desire a hospitality experience that is entirely guest-centric, and this should come as no surprise. Delighting the guest is what hospitality is all about, is it not?
Now, let’s apply those same understandings to the cultivation of a new and improved approach to guest rewards and VIP programs. If guests desire unique experiences and personalized service, shouldn’t the programs offered by hotels tap into those elements? Perhaps loyalty isn’t just about racking up points to accumulate a free night’s stay, but rather, should incentivize guests with more custom-made perks rooted in gratitude for their business. In fact, studies show that in addition to the majority of people who want experiences created just for loyalty members, 70% want content about travel amenities and destination to round out a more personalized experience.
With this in mind, countless travel brands and hotels around the globe are reinventing their rewards program with perks including tickets to local shows, complimentary services or upgrades, exclusive experiences, guaranteed reservation 48 hours before arriving, access to an on-site health club, F&B incentives, and more. In some cases, hotels are taking it a step further to imagine a more creative loyalty experience, which provides guests with the option to trade points for merchandise, packages or in-room luxury amenities such as on-demand by-the-glass wine.
Give Guests What They Really Want
Inspiring loyalty doesn’t have to be complicated — rather, hotels can leverage access to simple, convenient luxuries and upgrades that will delight guests every time. Some loyal guests of luxury hotels are upgraded to the hotel club floor (or club level) on a complimentary basis. Peninsula Beverly Hills keeps a closet with thousands of monogrammed pillowcases. Any time repeat guests check-in, their initials will appear, inscribed on the bedding in their room. Some hotels and resorts make guests feel like royalty with enhanced amenities like a fruit basket, higher-end toiletries, personal butlers, private pools, complimentary use of a house car and driver.
The in-room F&B experience is a popular way to recognize and reward guests, with complimentary breakfasts and a complimentary glass (or two) of wine. As a surprise and delight tactic, hotels can use Plum’s on-demand wine by the glass appliance to send VIPs a glass of wine (or a bottle to last the duration of their stay), welcome guests, help them celebrate an occasion, show gratitude, or even recover from poor service, all at the touch of a button. With Plum, F&B executives have the freedom to customize their wine program – changing wine seasonally, offering premium wine for their suites, or even customizing the wine selection to match the preferences of their VIP guests. Hosting a cocktail hour event or dinner for invite-only guests to experience Plum is another way to make them feel special. The award-winning St. Regis Hotel in D.C. currently utilizes Plum to recognize guests of a specific tier of their Bonvoy program, noting that it’s an easy way for them to deliver a quality amenity and valued perk without the operational burden. Hotel staff simply go into the Plum management console and provide a complimentary pour to the guestroom in which they are staying.
Not only do these simple gestures positively impact a guest’s perception of the hotel, but they can help to drive revenue when used as incentives to upgrade rooms, encourages them to book directly, visit more often, stay longer and spend more money while they are there. This becomes especially valuable when we consider the rising costs of guest acquisition, in comparison to the cultivation of existing, long-term guest relationships.
Automated perks and amenities like Plum become especially crucial as hotels increasingly invest in self-service options like self-check-in/out, mobile keys, and more. Without the formal front desk touchpoint, hotels can leverage exclusive loyalty and VIP perks to ensure each guest still feels acknowledged and appreciated as soon as they arrive on property. It’s convenient, easy to implement and taps into the modern guests desire for instant gratification.
Guest loyalty is changing, but that doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere. From greeting guests with a smile and warmth on the very first instance of their arrival to the moment they depart; amenities, royal treatment, and pampering are all about creating exceptional experiences. After all, it is the hospitality industry that coined the phrase – ‘Customer is King’. To keep guests coming back, hotels should continually be looking for new opportunities to establish relationships with guests by innovating and finding new technologies that help them stay a step ahead of what guests really want!
About the Author
Adam Hoydysh is Vice President of Hotel Sales for Plum. He has more than 20 years of B2B technology and hospitality sales and management experience at F5000 corporations and start-ups. Prior to joining Plum, Adam was Director of Sales for Juniper Networks, driving sales and sales training efforts for Juniper’s advanced technology portfolio of security products. Previous to its acquisition by Juniper Networks for $80 million in 2012, Adam was Director of Sales for Mykonos Software, the leading provider of intrusion deception security for Layer 7. Mykonos was the winner of Wall Street Journal Innovation Award for Information Security. Adam started his career in hospitality at Vail Resorts, the premier mountain resort company and leader in luxury travel.
Plum reimagines every aspect of the wine by the glass experience. The world’s first appliance that can serve a glass of wine just as the winemaker intended, Plum allows hoteliers to satisfy the moments that inspire guests to enjoy a glass of wine in the hotel’s room product. Plum delivers an unforgettable experience – and profits – in extraordinary style, one glass at a time. To learn more visit www.plum.wine.