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Global Hotel Alliance uses its invaluable customer insights and delivers relevant brand messaging that translates to ongoing customer engagement and customer loyalty.
Evidence of its success in these two areas came Monday when Global Hotel Alliance garnered two silver awards in the Customer Insights and Brand Messaging categories, respectively, at the inaugural Loyalty360 CX Awards unveiled at the 4th Annual Loyalty360 Engagement & Experience Expo in Dallas, TX.
Kristi Gole, Director of Loyalty Marketing, Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) participated in a scintillating Q&A with Loyalty360 to discuss in depth the company’s views on customer loyalty, customer engagement, technology, and customer engagement.
Can you talk to our audience about some of the specific things GHA is doing in the areas of Brand Messaging and Customer Insights that have positively impacted your CRM/customer journey efforts?
Our marketing focus is to educate our member base about interesting destinations across the globe and inspire them to travel. This translates into communications that have more editorial content and minimized promotional elements. We reserve one email each month for pure promotion which drives short-term results, but the remainder strives to create more of a relationship, for long-term results.
Our design and layout is bold and impactful, focusing on imagery and exotic and authentic travel experiences; this is what our members want to see. Our messages are clear and direct, representative of our luxury hotels but with a more approachable and relatable tone. Our email content offers variety to our members and tells a travel story ongoing. And our email frequency is respectful of our members’ inbox we aim to send no more than one email per week to each member, and only every two weeks to less-engaged members.
This approach is based on trying to set our program apart and respond to what our members want and expect from us. Our brand messaging and marketing communications program are based off direct and observed customer insights, and aim to create a rich experience throughout the lifecycle.
What are the key factors GHA focuses on for its Brand Messaging and Customer Insights, and how are those insights used?
We focus on educating our members about the world around them in a personalized way. Based on customers’ provided preferences, hotel stay history, email engagement activity, and other variables, we customize our communications and try to deliver something new and interesting.
Can you describe GHA’s current CRM efforts as they relate to impacting the Customer Experience and total Customer Journey picture?
Our brand is about experiencing the world. Our hotels are experts in travel and have local connections, and we want to extend that expertise and access to our loyalty members.
Our communications reinforce this–we currently have three themes for targeted emails: Discover New Destinations (editorial about what sets specific locations apart), Indulge in our Hotels (a focus on why our hotels are unique and what sets them apart), and Experience More (focusing on Local Experience awards which help members experience the destination).
Our communications take members on a path, first learning about new places and getting inspired to travel, then learning more about our hotels and why they should stay with us, and finally discovering new adventures they should try when they travel. Our members can experience seeing the world through our emails in between travels.
In addition, as each hotel stay is personalized, our communications are personalized as well. Email content varies based on language preference, membership tier, enrolling hotel brand, awards, region of residence, previous stay history, travel interest preferences, and other variables.
What have these two areas – Brand Messaging and Customer Insights – taught GHA about its customers?
There are many similarities across cultures and segments which are refreshing–many customer groups around the globe appreciate an authentic and respectful approach, and many love to learn about new places or discover lesser-known aspects of key hubs. Our customers want to see exotic destinations and gorgeous luxury property shots, even though they may not get the chance to travel there. By including a mix of the aspirational and the more attainable, in a personalized way, we build engagement.
Can you talk about how GHA listens to and learns certain things about its customers?
Our Customer Insights strategy has been, from program launch to present, to ask our members what they want from our program and to adjust in response to their feedback and/or their behavior. We modify program basics such as awards, tier qualification criteria, and benefits as well as our marketing communication frequency, design, and content all based on their response.
Both collection of customer insights and a focus on customer experience are incorporated in the strategies of each department (Marketing/ Ecommerce/ Operations/ Technology).
For program feedback, we offer a monthly survey through our Account Summary e-newsletter, asking members to tell us how we are doing and offering a weekend getaway sweepstakes to interested participants. We also track customer contact center feedback and share internally across departments on a monthly basis. And we openly receive suggestions and feedback from our hotel staff through a co-creation community, based on their direct experience with guests.
We also employ an ongoing mystery shopper series which provides a full evaluation of and scoring of the customer experience at the call centers and hotels across our portfolio. Our brands and their hotel General Managers have now incorporated mystery shop scores in their annual reviews and actively pursue improving their scores.
For communications feedback, we closely monitor email engagement metrics (opens, clicks, opt-outs) and conversion (bookings) and test frequency, timing, design & layout, and content to see what members respond to best, then tailor their future communications accordingly. We track these metrics on a weekly basis and shift direction as quickly as the following week if needed. For testing, we test the same elements two to three times before making conclusions.
Do you collect more, less, or the same amount of customer data than a year ago, and how is all of your data integrated throughout the operations process?
We collect more behavioral data than a year ago, through digital marketing tracking, but are still developing ways to incorporate this seamlessly in our data segmentation. Right now it is more of a manual process to pull certain elements together and then gleam insights and patterns, but we are working toward automating several steps so that the majority of the time is spent on analysis.
What does it mean to GHA to be recognized for its ongoing efforts in these critical customer-related areas?
It is such an honor to be recognized by Loyalty360 in these areas. We are a very small corporate team, more of a family, and we are straight-forward, thoughtful, and extremely protective of our member base. To be recognized for having a branding and customer insights approach that is noteworthy, is truly fulfilling and reminds us that we are doing something special.
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