Ring in 2013 With Loyalty Marketing

B GradeI am writing this as the first in a series of posts under the title ‘This is Good Loyalty’ as a means to recognize companies who do a good or great job of practicing loyalty.

This inaugural post will go to a loyalty fav of mine – the Starwood Preferred Hotel program (SPG). The program includes Sheraton, Weston, Aloft, the W Hotels and Regis properties (https://www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest/index.html).

The reason for my note concerns issue resolution – a component of even the best loyalty programs where customers are let down. As Dennis Armbuster put it in the most recent issue of Colloquy (Volume 20 Issue 4/2012 pp2), ‘The single largest factor in driving customer loyalty may be the quality of your employees”. Further Maritz suggests in thier recent white paper Critical Factors To Ensure a Positive Customer Experience that  “A customer’s experience is the most critical factor in building or destroying true loyalty”. Some statistics they provide to back thier point up are:

  • 60% of Canadians reported customer service is the most important factor
  • We will spend an average of 7% more if we believe servcie is excellent
  • 85% are willing to pay more to ensure superior customer service

Employees are an ever more important asset in a comapny’s efforts to build stroner customer loyalty.

I stayed one night at a Sheraton property in Buffalo over the holidays (New Year’s Eve). We dropped our bags off before dinner and left for the evening. Upon our return we had a great deal of trouble getting any sleep because of the noise of the fan in the room’s wall unit heater. If we turned it off it completely it became too cold and even if we kept it on at the lowest level it was too loud for me to sleep. Needless to say I did not get a good night’s sleep. I was exhausted and angry but didn’t say anything to the staff at the counter at checkout.

But a few days later I received a survey from SPG about my stay. There were enough open ended questions that allowed me to describe my issue. I have only just recently acquired my SPG Platinum status so I can’t say how they would have responded to my note without this program designation but the response was lightening quick. I got a reply from the actual hotel manager within a few hours. He apologized for the problem and credited me with 5,000 SPG points (a free nights stay at the same hotel would cost 7,000 points). And he let me know that they are renovating the hotel in February and hoped that I would come back. Here are four things they did to make this right for me:

  1. The response was timely – it was very fast given I only used a survey to communicate my displeasure
  2. The response came from the person in charge. I think we all feel better when the person responsible for the department/building/company replies directly. It just feels more deeply heard if that person is the contact.
  3. The resolution was fair value. An ‘okay’ response might have been to credit me 1,000 points. It’s a nice round number and a thousand sounds ‘fair’. But if the ‘credit’ is too low, it runs the risk of being construed as insulting and make the situation worse. But SPG gave me value something closer to what I would have thought as fair compensation for a poorly delivered service experience. The 5,000 SPG is almost a full free night (A ‘A’ score of course would have been to credfit me the full night’s cost or 7,000 points) .
  4. They are resolving the problem. I know they aren’t renovating the hotel because of my complaint but when the problem I faced is being fixed, it makes me feel as thought they get it.

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