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  • Writer's pictureStephan Busch

4 reasons why loyalty programs don’t click. Loyal guest today can be loyal to everybody – at the sa

Loyal Guest would be the back bone of every hotels financial success. Would be! Every Manager of a hotel and Corporate Manager is aware of it. Marketing & Sales Department constantly cook new recipes for Loyalty program success. But besides the fact that every branded hotel

  • has a loyalty program

  • the guest gets a flashy plastic card

  • the guest receives a lot of little extras

the guest is just not loyal enough!

There are multiple simple reasons why it doesn’t work. Not really surprising is the fact that the obstacles are created by the same people who are creating the loyalty program. Corporate Management and owners. There are of course hotels that have totally loyal guest but they are mostly private and independent.

There are multiple reasons why this unthankful Loyalty program member who even received the especially for them designed golden plastic card are just not behaving up to expectations.

1) No emotional connection established or maintained

The loyal guest and their families – some over generations that I have had the pleasure to see all had a personal connection to at least one employee that they trusted. In some hotels it was the Maître D in other the Chief Receptionist, the Concierge or the General Manager.

In one hotel it was the doorman who knew everybody by name, had their history up to their addresses in his head and briefed all staff on the preferences of this specific guest on arrival. These were trusted employees who could deal with all this different and sometimes difficult characters. The guest was loyal to them and thus to the hotel. With the turnover ratio for staff in most big hotels this is of course impossible. You need loyal employees first.

2) The loyal guest that is ignored

You might be loyal and stay for the 20th time at the same hotel but you get greeted and checked in like you came the first time. Your guest history, the data, the information about you are there – they are just not used. Happens by far too often.

I stayed for six month in a 5* star hotel in Beijing and every morning for breakfast I had to show my guest pass to be allowed into the breakfast room by the same two hostesses. I of course knew their names – they never used mine. Worse than that every time I forgot my guest pass I was not allowed into the breakfast room until I went back to my room and showed the pass. Sounds funny but you ask yourself why you should be loyal?

Once a year, for the last ten years, I like to go with my wife for a relaxed stay in a resort in Germany. Small with only 30 rooms but very nice. Every time I arrive I am ask how I heard about their hotel and again – treated like I am a first time guest. The Barman always remembers us by name, knows what we like, ask if the room is fine with us and if he should get us a table in the restaurant. This is our emotional connection. Not because we drink too much but because you always feel recognized, welcomed back and re connected. Yes you might also drink a glass more because it is a pleasure.

3) Loyal guest today can be loyal to everybody – at the same time!

In the digital age the internet gives us the option to choose and explore faster than ever. I might be a loyal Hyatt guest but before I fly out I will check the other hotels at my destinations. Are they better located? Offers something interesting and new? Have better reviews? I will dig through my stack of loyalty cards and decide who I want to be loyal to this time. Emotional connections? I have never been there so better choose something convenient. The place I choose will get the chance to establish an emotional connection. Will they? I don’t care – they should!

4) The loyal guest who doesn’t identify himself and fills out the form

That is the worst one! How can a hotel company identify a loyal guest who declines the flashy plastic card? By guest history? Because computers tell us that he is a repeat guest? Now that’s a little bit too much! We have to take care of the Loyalty program members first!

The great – real - loyal guest never want to be labelled and identified by a plastic card. A truly great hotel will never try to register them. They will remember – and that is all the guest needs to become loyal.

For more great service and emotional connections in hospitality I strongly recommend to also visit a web site by Giles Gordon Smith.

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