I have abandonment issues—with loyalty programs
 
I have abandonment issues—with loyalty programs
20 JULY 2017 7:48 AM

I belong to every hotel loyalty program out there, and I’ve never—not even once—redeemed a single point. Help me with my issues. 

I’ve had loyalty on my mind a lot lately, probably because I’ll be moderating a panel on the topic at next month’s Hotel Data Conference. It’s a huge issue for hoteliers, of course, because it’s the ultimate benefit-cost ratio indicator, isn’t it? Is what you pay as an owner or operator in time, investment in the program and little bottles of water to hand out to loyalty members at check-in worth the price of that guest’s loyalty?

Only individual owners and managers can answer that question (and hint—we’ll be running a story on this very topic here on Hotel News Now in the coming days).

Brands in particular like to talk about their most active and engaged loyalty members, and of course, that’s great—those are the people who stay the most, spend the most and are the most valuable.

But more and more I’m hearing about a widening gap between people who belong to loyalty programs and people who actually are active in them.

I read a lot from Colloquy on the topic of loyalty, and the company recently released its 2017 Loyalty Census, which outlines trends across industries, including retail, hospitality and financial services.

Back to that gap: Colloquy calls it “the abandonment trend.” It’s when people belong but don’t really do anything about it. The company’s research found that more than half of all loyalty memberships in the United States are inactive. The data also shows that 28% of consumers have abandoned programs without ever redeeming a single point.

That’s got to be particularly worrying for hotels. I mean, face it: To earn a loyalty point at a grocery store, you buy a gallon of milk. To earn a loyalty point at a hotel, you have to get up early, pack the damn suitcase, drive or fly somewhere and sleep in a bed that isn’t yours.

I am one of those abandoners. I belong to every hotel loyalty program out there, I earn the points, and I’ve never, not even once, redeemed a single point. I don’t even know what my points balances are.

Yet I stay in hotels All. The. Time.

Customer service breakdown
So where’s the disconnect? Maybe it’s in the customer service. For example, I check in to Marriott hotels all the time, using the same name, the same corporate credit card and the same Marriott Rewards number. I always assume I’m not worth the time of fawning over as a loyalty program member because nobody ever says anything like, “have you considered redeeming your points?” Or, “I see you’ve stayed with Marriott a billion nights and have never redeemed a point; can I help you understand the program because you’re clearly a little dumb on this topic?”

It’s similar to the first time I got a My Panera loyalty card and didn’t realize I needed to activate it before using it. So for six months I swiped it at check-out every time the cashier asked for it. I saw my friends earning free cookies and free bagels, and I got nothing. Finally I asked, and the cashier said, “Oh, your card isn’t even registered. You have to do that online before you can start earning.”

I nearly blew a gasket. I, who never gets angry or impatient with wait staff, SCREAMED at this nice cashier something along the lines of, “Then why have your employees been swiping my card every day for six months without telling me the card wasn’t even live?”

Needless to say, I abandoned the My Panera program faster than you can say “schmear.”

Back to my hotel abandonment issues: Yes, I belong to your programs. Yes, I’m an active hotel-stayer. Clearly there’s a gap there. You must have data on me and my people—the ones who belong to your program in name, who clearly stay in your hotels, but who haven’t engaged at all in the program.

Aren’t we a potential goldmine? Or maybe you like us where we are—blissfully ignorant, because once we realize we can redeem our lifetime’s-worth of points at beach resorts is when we’ll start costing you money. (If that’s the case, the joke is on me for not using my points.)

I’ll be asking people this very question next month during my panel on loyalty, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Leave a comment below. Or you can email me at sricca@hotelnewsnow.com or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph

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1 Comment

  • JZ July 20, 2017 1:45 PM Reply

    this is your problem. lots of business travelers i know use their points to either redeem for leisure stays with their family or to transfer them to airlines for award trips. you will also get more engaged and feel rewarded once you actually start using them.

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