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Customer Experience Focus at Global Hotel Alliance Reaps Loyalty360 Awards

Global Hotel Alliance Customer ExperienceGlobal Hotel Alliance had a big day at Monday’s second annual 2015 Loyalty360 Awards during the 8th annual Loyalty Expo presented by Loyalty360 – The Loyalty Marketers’ Association, which is being held April 27-29, 2015, at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando in Orlando, Florida.

Global Hotel Alliance’s DISCOVERY loyalty program earned three separate Loyalty360 Awards: A Platinum Award for Best Customer Experience & Engagement; a Gold for the 360-Degree Loyalty North America category; and a Bronze award in the Best Customer Insight in Loyalty Marketing category.

Kristi Gole, Director of Loyalty Marketing, Global Hotel Alliance sat down with Loyalty360 for an intriguing interview.

Can you talk about your CX campaign, as far as what is involved, what prompted it, and why you think it resonates so well with your customers?

Our program and our communications focus on what we hear our customers want most – to experience the world around them in an authentic way. Some of our customers are jet-setters, who travel often, and others travel only once a year or two, but most share an appreciation of travel and are interested in learning about places they haven’t been, or new facets of places they have, and we focus on delivering a customer experience that achieves that in a bold and memorable way.

In 2014, we implemented a year-long email marketing campaign: DISCOVER, INDULGE, EXPERIENCE, which comprised of 3 distinct themes: Discover New Destinations, Indulge in our Hotels, and Experience More. These tie directly to what our program stands for: Travel, Exploration, Unforgettable Experiences, and Discovering more about your destination.

For Discover New Destinations, we educated about locations that are off the beaten path, or feature lesser-known aspects of popular locations. For Indulge in our Hotels, we feature noteworthy properties and show off what is unique and special about them. For Experience More, we educated how holidays or seasons are celebrated locally in specific destinations and promoted specific Local Experience awards (our reward element) that will be of interest to award holders.

This approach was loosely based on ongoing anecdotal feedback from our members each month in our Account Summary Survey, and from ongoing feedback received by our Membership Services team. Members would ask for more information about the images/locations featured in our marketing communications and point out that we should tell them more about our destinations and what is unique to each. They also responded well to dedicated redemption emails, which showed us that focusing our messaging on that area would be appreciated.

Our campaign strategy, content, and messaging were all about educating and inspiring our loyalty members using an editorial approach, as opposed to a promotional/discount/hotel-specific approach which is so common in the market. We wanted to engage our members and not be about the ‘sell.’ If we did it right, we would (and did) see an increase in engagement and loyalty, resulting in an increase in award redemption levels and revenue increase long-term.

What are your CX goals and how have the results matched your expectations? 

The Customer Experience is engrained across all departments within our organization, so the goals for this area are the same as the departmental targets, which focus on member revenue and engagement. Engagement is measured in several ways (award redemption, repeat stays, staying at multiple hotels or brands, opens and clicks for emails, booking direct). We are a young company so we have aggressive goals of 20-30%+ growth each year, and we were pleased to exceed our goals in 2014.

We saw an 80% increase in award redemption YOY along with a 23% increase in revenue, 26% increase in cross-brand revenue, and 46% increase in direct bookings. 6-month email activity increased by 52% and opt-outs decreased by 27%. So a successful year with a positive customer response, which ensures that we will expand on this approach in 2015.

How do you define Customer Experience at GHA?

For GHA, the Customer Experience is the journey our members take across all touch points from our hotels to our marketing and service channels.

With an abundance of technology solutions available in the marketplace, how do you know which ones best fit your customers and their expectations?

In terms of technology providers, we have decided to largely invest this year in developing a new, more scalable infrastructure to support our growth and cross-channel marketing orchestration. Our customers expect highly personalized and timely communications, and we understand that technology is the backbone in delivering that. We have partnered with a premium service provider that has a solid reputation for both quality and service, and they are allowing us to customize key aspects of the system to meet our business needs.

From a CX perspective, what are you most proud of at GHA?

I am most proud of developing and maintaining a customer-first content approach. While that seems easy enough, it is challenging at times to enforce that amongst brand requests and short-term business needs. The reality is that it results in long-term results, which are the most important, and our organization understands that.

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