Best Western’s Loyalty Program Success Based on Voice of the Customer

Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Best Western Hotels & Resorts, is very proud of the company’s Best Western Rewards loyalty program that has earned several accolades in recent years.

Most recently, Best Western Rewards was ranked among the top five hotel loyalty programs by U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 list of Best Hotel Rewards Programs. For the fifth consecutive year, the program has received this coveted recognition for the tremendous value it brings to the program’s members.

Loyalty360 talked to Dowling about the ongoing success of the program.

BW Rewards has received various honors in recent years. Can you talk about how BW Rewards impacts customer behavior and how the company leverages that moving forward?
 Dowling: Best Western Rewards (BWR) allows travelers to earn and redeem points across all 10 Best Western brands.  Whether a guest is searching for a free night or wishes to earn gift cards from some of the most popular shopping, dining, entertainment, gas, and airline partners, they are given the opportunity to rich rewards out of each stay. 
We find that our customers appreciate the program and a recent study with U.S. News & World Report’s Marketing and Intelligence team found that the expiration of points, ease of point redemption, guaranteed room availability, and brand trust are important factors shaping the current hotel loyalty landscape. According to the survey, Best Western performed exceptionally well in a number of critical areas. Best Western is committed to listening and learning from our customers and ensuring we are constantly enhancing our program based on customer feedback.
Many loyalty programs find success early but then struggle due to various reasons. How does BW manage and monitor its loyalty program to keep it fresh, relevant, and compelling for customers?
Dowling: We listened to the voice of our customers and, in response, revamped the BWR program earlier this year to deliver easily redeemable rewards, a new digital membership card for ease and convenience, and exceptional discounts, perks, and promotions that are unrivaled in the industry. The new digital membership card gives guests simplified access to their membership number, point balance, current tier level and exclusive deals and offers. 
In addition, we always offer our spring, summer, fall and winter promotions, which provide guests with a $10 Travel Card during each stay. We’re also constantly searching for new opportunities to reward our guests during special times, events or holidays throughout the year. We encourage guests to Go.Get.Rewarded and to reap the benefits of the program.

How does BW create alignment between their customer loyalty efforts and the brand promise?
Dowling: You can’t gain the trust of a customer without delivering on your brand promise. Since our brand refresh in 2015, Best Western Hotels & Resorts has become a global powerhouse with a diverse hotel portfolio, attractive fees that optimize profitability, award-winning marketing programs, and partnerships, and operational programs and services that create brand excellence.
It’s vital that our customers understand who we are today. Our president and CEO, David Kong, has completely changed the vision of this company and it has been my pleasure to support those efforts.  The more we can convey the new Best Western Hotels & Resorts to today’s travelers, the more they will want to stay with us. We take a lot of pride in BWR and look forward to continuing to show the guest our desire to improve our loyalty program even more–aligning with our brand promise.
There is so much focus on customer data and around creating actionable insight now. How should brands be managing data in a way that is less complex, easier to understand, and more impactful?
Dowling: The quest for customer insights is a focal point for Best Western. We regularly conduct research with our BWR members, we analyze our guest satisfaction data carefully, and we monitor customer complaints to ensure we are addressing key customer needs.
What makes BW Rewards unique?
Dowling: First, BWR is the only loyalty program in the industry where points never expire and the study with U.S. News & World Report’s Marketing and Intelligence team indicated the importance of providing a program with points that never expire. BWR members also have access to the richest promotions in the industry. As part of our recent loyalty program refresh, members are given instant rewards and gratification on every stay. Our Status Match…No Catch® program allows members to instantly have their status matched with other hotel loyalty programs upon enrollment. 
In addition, our new digital membership card is unique and focused on the latest virtual trend that we’ve seen develop across the hospitality industry. We find that customers enjoy easy access to their rewards information.
Our elite members also receive elite rewards. Upon arrival, elite members are given a choice of a “Thank You” gift or bonus points. Additionally, they receive a 10 percent discount for all free night redemptions. Best Western also provides guaranteed free nights for Diamond and Diamond Select BWR members at properties with availability.  

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