ORLANDO -- The customer experience is critical to creating loyalty, according to Lillian Murphy, Vice President, Customer Retention & Loyalty, Orbitz Worldwide. Murphy was part of a loyalty expert panel on Thursday at the 6th annual Loyalty Expo.

Murphy said make sure all your channels are being optimized because “as an online entity, the alignment of our message is critical to us.”

Brands must remove any barriers for customers so they can engage.

“I’m a big fan of simple, clear messages,” Murphy told attendees. “We’ve been having design sessions with customers over a three-day period and that’s contributing to how we’re facilitating your booking, ideally fulfilling your dream. We do customer satisfaction surveys, but we also invite customers to do reviews of their experiences. Reviews are a big way to get an accurate commentary of their experience.”

Nandan Mer, Group Executive, Global Loyalty, MasterCard Worldwide, said his company’s main responsibility is to ensure transactions flow seamlessly from any corner of the planet.

“For us, the customer experience is, in effect, our business,” Mer said. “Customer experience has an effect on building customer loyalty. Any participation must have a common set of programs and procedures for us. Our economic model makes money when transactions flow through the system.”

Greg Brown, Vice President, Loyalty, Promotion & Relationship Marketing, Choice Hotels International, said his company strives to maintain the same customer experience across all its brands.

“A brand’s quality is only good as its lowest common denominator,” Brown said. “We have lots of data about our customer experiences. Thankfully, technology is getting to the point where some of this stuff is more doable.”

Jim Thompson, VP CRM, Loyalty and Digital, American Eagle Outfitters, said his company sets the customer experience bar pretty high.

“With 19,000 frontline associates, we have a lot of siloed data that needs to be integrated,” he said. “We’re getting engagement up front.”

Thompson shared a story about an employee helping a 90-year-old woman who was carrying a bunch of jeans. The employee walked around the store with her, holding her several pairs of jeans, waited in line with her, and walked her out to her car – a great customer experience.

Murphy said it’s nearly impossible for any brand to deliver a great customer experience every time, but that’s the goal.

“Relevancy lends itself to personalization, which is a good thing as long as it’s not to the point of Big Brother,” Murphy said. “Relevancy is one of the key things we’re focused on.”

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