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Building Loyalty in the Experience Age
By Lina Zouhair
Friday, 9th March 2018
 

Managing customer relationship is a savoir-faire endowed with strenuous peculiarities and numerous hospitality experts have tried to master the art of retaining customers and endless strategies have been deployed to enhance guest experience.

To better apprehend its concept, Ms Christina Siaw, Senior CEO at Singapore Cruise Centre, Mr Philip Pang, Marketing and Membership Manager at the Incentive, Conference and Event Society Asia Pacific (ICESAP) and Mr Timothy Parr Front Office Manager at the Grand Hyatt Singapore shared their own vision of loyalty and what it represents in the hospitality industry today.

Customer Loyalty Today

Timothy Parr, who joined the Hyatt family with the opening of Park Hyatt Sydney and continued his career as Front Office Manager of the Grand Hyatt Singapore, pointed out that loyalty is the ability of a brand to be the choice of the customer even if it’s not the most convenient or affordable option. It is a sacrifice nurtured by the relationship formed between the customer and the company. In the hotel chains landscape, this exclusive connexion can be inherited from long-term stays.

“Value”. One single word, yet the quintessence of loyalty according to Christina Siaw. With her experience in the online travel agencies industry and being right at the beginning of the movement, she has no doubt that loyalty is motivated by value. Rewards programs are the evidence of a practical vision of loyalty. If people use a product or service frequently, they find themselves caged in a loyalty program.

"There is no magical moment. People are loyal because it’s practical."
pointed out Christina Siaw.

Value, convenience and experience are the key ingredients of loyalty. Appealing to his luxury concierge experience at John Paul, Philippe Pang’s perspective suggests that the way of engaging customers is critical in shaping their experience. He explained that in order to provide top service in the digital age, CRM tools combine the use of technology and customer data to anticipate the guests’ needs.

The Driving Forces of Customer Loyalty

Loyalty is enlivened throughout the touch points occurring at different stages of the customer journey. From awareness to bonding, every step is an opportunity to retain customers but also a risk of deceiving when promises are unfulfilled. In a competitive landscape where too many brands offer similar services and products, loyalty programs have lost their appeal and exclusivity. Balancing data management with the classic ideals of hospitality, which are personalization and human connection, can be a daunting task.

There is a common understanding that satisfaction is the ethos of customer loyalty. Christina Siaw advocates the “To not disappoint” mantra enhanced by the liberty of choice given to customers. Choosing intensifies customer satisfaction as it offers a variety of options and facilitates the purchasing decision. No matter the scope, as long as there is a choice there is an illusion of control and power cleverly administered to customers by the companies.

Being part of a hotel brand known for its customer loyalty, Timothy Parr has witnessed the importance of guest preference knowledge in the creation of customized experiences. CRM is a valuable ally in keeping tracks of stays and sharing data across the various properties of a hotel chain. Not only does it help to understand what is meaningful to them, it allows building substantial relationships.

Technology: the Future of Customer Loyalty?

Digitalization is predominant in customer loyalty today. Integrating technology helps to deliver the best service and meet the expectations of demanding guests.

"Digital appliances are profitable investments if they are aligned to customer expectations."
declared Christina Siaw.

Indeed, this can be a dilemma for luxury establishments where impeccable service and dedicated personnel are expected to exceed the guest’s wishes. In this respect, the use of technology could seem antithetic in the sphere of authentic service.

Focus groups and dialogue with customers are the best ways to identify and comprehend what drives loyalty. Technology makes it easier for clients to share their feedback but also to complain about their experiences. It is crucial to answer personally these comments as they represent an opportunity to retain customers. Technology has changed the way people interact but communication should be maintained in order to provide the finest experience.

Millennials have witnessed the wave of technology, which impacted all aspects of our society. To engage millennials brands have to be endowed with a digital presence and the ability to create tailored content. Philipp Pang affirmed that millennials have killed loyalty programs. To attract this generation of customers, identity and emotions are necessary to foster true brand loyalty. Successful strategies must emphasize the intangible benefits and sense of escapism generated by the product or service.

“Building loyalty in the experience age” was a Defining Hospitality panel discussion. Presented by Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) Asia-Pacific Office, Defining Hospitality is a series of events that gives hospitality and industry leaders a unique opportunity to share their views on current trends, challenges and opportunities around the region. Follow ehlapac on Facebook to be updated on upcoming events.

Author: Lina Zouhair, EHL Bachelor Student / www.ehl.edu

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