Unexpected Privileges – Do they Promote Customer Loyalty?
Taking a break from the routine, I wanted to share a piece of marketing that I received last week that really stood out.
In today’s age, the vast majority of the marketing assets that we touch on a day to day basis revolve around e-media (I refer to anything that is digital to fit into this camp). With the pervasive being of internet communications in our daily lives, this of course is the more familiar mode. Aside from coupon clippers and the increasingly ‘free sample’ in the mail (coupons for free trials are much more common) it is rare to obtain something ‘of substance’ in the mail from a company unless you actually purchased something.
So last week my wife comes in and drops this CD-like package on my desk that has written on it: ‘SWISS POST – Customs Declaration’ and a ton of other things on it in Swiss German. I’m instantly intrigued.
Like a kid on Christmas I tear open this package to find this 6.5in x 6.5in case that you see in the below picture. Swissotel – Cool! I’ve only ever stayed at them a few times last year (mainly in Singapore), but why am I receiving this? I’m surely not a preferred member.
Upon opening up the lush booklet that is inside of the case, I find out in the personalized note that I have been upgraded to their Eleva (or Elite) status. Now as I know that usually multi-tiered hotel loyalty programs have bogus perks (ie Holiday Inn’s Priority Club … Gold Elite—Stay 15-49 nights or earn 20,000 points
• All Club benefits plus:
• Priority Check-in™ ensuring your room and key are ready upon your arrival
• 10% bonus on base points
• Exclusive toll-free Gold Elite customer service number (may not be available in all regions))
Um – yay – Not… Big friggin deal, I get better loyalty rewards from the local Harris Teeter
But reading the letter, this Eleva card elevates me to Swiss Exec Lounge, Free Breakfast, Free internet, etc. all at a very upscale chain that would usually charge you through the roof for any of the above. All in all this is a very nice program. Having stayed at Hiltons for my main vendor for the past 6 years, I have gone from nothing to Diamond and then to squat due to their change in program (Went from rolling to yearly) – effectively killing all loyalty that I have for the chain.
So aside from my perceived benefit of this perk – What does this uncalled for upgrade mean for Swissotel?
At the end of the day, the value of the package that Swissotel sent to me (€2-3 including shipping) is their cost. Swissotel targeted a new business customer that up until now has been whitespace. They know that I stayed at one hotel in Singapore one week and then another on a return visit (within the same year). From a customer perspective, it is their best interest to maintain my business and when I have choices, have Swissotel be that 1st choice for hotel when I travel. Having experienced their hotels in the past, I have of course been witness to the elevated level of service.
Now with my Eleva status in hand, I know I will receive the perks of executive lounge and uber breakfast spread at a relatively posh hotel chain and not ‘hope for the best’ like I do with my Hilton elite status (only if avail).
Thinking it through, this high touch loyalty marketing definitely puts Swissotel at the front of the pack. In other situations where I am executive elite (i.e. Delta SkyMiles Diamond) I did receive a more robust membership kit, etc -but it still seemed a bit pedestrian (and yes Delta, your international upgrade ability is still the worst… like never able to grab an upgradable fare).
In closing, I think back to a book that I read years ago that pretty much altered how I think of customer relationships en masse – Chocolates on the Pillow are Not Enough -by Jonathan Tisch. While much of this book’s content is basic customer marketing best practices there is a concept that comes to mind – the fact that gimmicks (ie the chocolate on the pillow) are not going to win customers… but in more detail, you need to look at turning your customers into guests through exceptional service, experience, etc. This Eleva card by itself would be a perfect example of a gimmick, making a customer think that they were special, honored and elite (Yes Holiday Inn’s Priority Club, you are front and center on this one) – yet when attached to both the brand and the experience of Swissotel – This ‘gimmick’ puts Swissotel at the front of this business traveler’s lodging list and I’m pretty sure that was worth the €2-3.
Business Analytics and Data Warehousing can produce some awesome results – but unless you know how to properly execute on the findings, they are useless.