Viewpoint: If you want to buy loyalty, make it personal

02 March 2023
Viewpoint: If you want to buy loyalty, make it personal

Loyalty programmes have been proved to work, but you can take it to the next level with intuitive and empowered staff, says Luc Gesvret

Loyal customers are the holy grail for hoteliers. Guests who are loyal to your hotel or brand can elevate you above the fiercely competitive, digitally-dominated market, reduce customer acquisition costs and improve your bottom line. It is for this reason that the big global hotel groups – including Accor – invest so much in their loyalty programmes.

A recent study from ALL – Accor Live Limitless, Accor's lifestyle loyalty programme, revealed that they have a significant impact. Some 43% of consumers say being rewarded with points or rewards for using a particular brand has made them more loyal to it. And 65% of people have some form of loyalty account with a brand, averaging 4.2 memberships each. These numbers alone suggest they must be working.

But true loyalty is about much more than a loyalty programme, however enticing the rewards on offer. Genuine customer loyalty – and the multitude of benefits it brings – comes from many factors that add up to a great end-to-end guest experience. Our survey suggested that other factors that are influential in making people more loyal to brands include the quality of products, a positive experience and great customer service.

For a guest to come back to you time after time, they have to remember you for all the right reasons. This will be partially predetermined by their experience of your brand, their interactions with you on the search and booking journey before they even arrive at the hotel. But the biggest opportunity to build loyalty comes from getting to know your guests and what you do with that knowledge.

Technology platforms and artificial intelligence can help you to know your guests better and provide simple, useful information to hotel staff that can help transform their experience. Even knowing your guest's name, birthday and who they are travelling with can make a huge difference.

A personalised experience is increasingly expected. A recent study by McKinsey & Company stated that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalised interactions. This expectation of personalised experiences feeds into the popularity of loyalty programmes among guests. The additional perks and elevated experience available to loyalty members are key considerations for many, with our research suggesting that being rewarded for using brands is one important reason for staying loyal. Elements high on the wish list for consumers considering joining loyalty programmes include access to "money-can't-buy experiences".

Knowledge of your guests is an important foundation of exceptional customer service, which I would argue is the single most important factor in building loyalty. As guests, our most memorable experiences are invariably those where a member of staff has gone out of their way to recognise what we need, to solve a problem, or provide us with a magic moment that was beyond our expectations.

Ensuring staff are well-trained and empowered to use their emotional intelligence and solve guest problems, to come to life as individuals rather than reading from a script, is key to making this happen. The traits people look for in others include humour, helpfulness and being a good listener, all traits associated with great customer service and hospitality.

People are the key to loyalty. Making the effort to do these things and provide the most positive end-to-end experience for guests is worth every ounce of effort. Guests are very willing to share their experiences online now – our research suggests that 51% have left a review for a brand after a positive experience, and 46% after a negative one. And the pay-off you will get from the increased loyalty will be worth its weight in gold.

Luc Gesvret is senior vice-president of loyalty and guest experience at Accor

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