Hilton HHonors Is All About Technology Innovation as Membership Surges

Editor’s Note - This story was originally published in June's Loyalty Management Online, and is part of Loyalty360’s “Best of 2016.” We wish you and your family a happy holidays, and will return to our regular content schedule in 2017!

One of the main reasons behind Hilton HHonors’ incredible success is the company’s relentless commitment toward technological innovation that enhances the guest experience. Ongoing innovation has sparked membership growth and, along the way, various awards.

Aaron Glick, VP of Hilton HHonors, talked to Loyalty360 about the success of this phenomenal award-winning loyalty program. “Hilton is all about innovation,” Glick explained to Loyalty360.

“Even though the Hilton brand started almost 100 years ago, the company’s reputation for innovation is stronger today than it has ever been. Whether it’s launching digital key that allows your mobile phone to open your door and bypass checking in, or the ability to use your mobile app to choose your own room, we are still the only hospitality brand in the industry that turns your smartphone into the ‘remote control’ of your stay experience.”

Given Hilton’s leadership is so supportive of technology, it is actually easy to continue the pipeline, Glick added.

“Our innovation story is impressive,” he said. “Hilton has been extremely inventive over the past few years, using insights from our customers to drive development of new products. We are constantly surveying our customers and use that data to anticipate what our customers need. We look at how they use our website and our mobile app, and from that we created things like digital check-in and room selection and Digital Key.”

Hilton HHonors is an industry-leading loyalty program, which has picked up even more momentum in recent years.

“While we’re a 27-year-old program, we still think like entrepreneurs. We are constantly evolving our program benefits to help remove some of the friction of travel for our most loyal guests through a number of the enhancements and innovations. In fact we’ve recently been recognized by J.D. Power for customer satisfaction for the second year in a row. We are very proud of the progress and recognition, and it drives us to continue pushing for more. We are a big program with 52 million members, but we want to be bigger and even better.”

Hilton’s No. 1 strategic pillar is growth.

“We just announced on our Q1 earnings call that our program enrollment is up nearly 90% year over year, so we have a big focus on adding new members and getting them excited about Hilton HHonors,” Glick explained. “Second, and also very important and the reason we are up for the award, is digital. We have a best-in-class app with a number of industry-first features. The Hilton HHonors app is the top-rated hospitality app in the App Store. It is simple and easy to use with great visuals. The app tells you the information that you need to know when you need it, and our HHonors members are raving about it. Our team is even listening to guests to make enhancements. Just recently we teamed up with Google Maps to enhance our room selection offering. Per guest feedback, you can now see exactly where your room is in relation to streets and other markers via Google Maps.”

Glick said Hilton officials view the usage of digital and mobile technology, and how that impacts their business, as a key trend.

“Customers today can pull out their phones, go to their favorite coffee shops, and personalize their beverages and pay within an app,” he explained. “They can check into a flight, they can choose their seat, and they can go straight to their plane without talking to anyone using an app. For a while the hotel industry stayed on the sidelines.  Those days are over. What we are seeing is that people want to use their app in our hotels just like they use it to buy their coffee or check into a flight. The enhancements we are making to the app are taking these trends from across industries, consumer experiences, and the global environment and applying them to our hotels. You are able to choose your room, request items to be in your room prior to arrival, use your phone to open the door and explore the hotspots in their destinations all through the small device that fits in your pocket.”

When will the digital train slow down?

“When it comes to the digital pipeline, we are going to go faster, not slower,” Glick added.

Hilton uses two key metrics. “One is Share of Occupancy where we look at what percentage of our guests staying in our hotels are Hilton HHonors members and we are at more than 50 percent,” Glick explained. “One in two guests is a Hilton HHonors member and that is record-breaking for us. The second thing that we look at is our guest satisfaction scores. We are constantly measuring how our guests are rating their experiences and reviewing the feedback they are providing. We are always looking at the trends, with the goal to always improve those scores and the experiences they represent.”

Personalization will, and always has been, a top priority for the Hilton HHonors program.

“Personalization is part of our innovation pipeline or technology pipeline,” Glick explained. “In terms of things that we do to personalize, it is about how we communicate with you and the offers we send. It is also when you arrive on property, we have customized elements within your Hilton HHonors profile. We know what types of rooms you like. Do you like to be near an elevator, on the top floor or want a room with a view? If we know that you like sparkling water, we will put it into our system. Each hotel can capture these preferences to surprise and delight our guests.”

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