Talking Customer Loyalty with Peter Gorla, VOILÀ Hotel Rewards (Loyalty360 article)

By: Jim Tierney, Loyalty360

Mobile is a massive opportunity for loyalty programs everywhere.

Loyalty360 caught up with Peter Gorla, Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, Managing Director, VOILÀ Hotel Rewards, and discussed this theme along with several other customer engagement trends. VOILÀ Hotel Rewards is the world’s No. 1 independent hotel loyalty program.

Mobile seems to be taking off now at a faster rate than the past few years combined. How is VOILÀ coping with this mobile customer engagement explosion?

For VOILÀ and other loyalty programs, mobile is a huge opportunity in terms of nurturing more direct connections with members and driving engagement. Through the VOILÀ mobile app, which will debut in the first-quarter of this year, we’ll provide members with an easy way to access their account specifics and also ensure that they are aware of the many rich promotions and new partnerships available within the network. I think it’s safe to say that most people receive too much email. Which means, of course that some loyalty program statements, including promotions and partnership announcements sent via email are not noticed by all members. Mobile cuts through the noise of email and deepens, in a very meaningful way, the one-to-one relationships we are building with our members and provides new marketing channels, like mobile push notifications to better drive engagement.

How do you view customer loyalty and hotel customer loyalty programs, and how they have been enhanced?

From the profit margin perspective, hotel loyalty programs continue to be essential tools to reduce commissions paid by hoteliers to OTAs. Loyalty programs are able to accomplish this goal by shifting repeat guests to substantially lower-cost direct channels. For instance, a typical loyalty program will cost the hotel approximately 5% of the value of a booking, while, on the other hand OTA’s earn 20-25% commission for each booking. Channel shifting via loyalty programs will become even more important as price parity is phased out and services like Airbnb continue to gain more market share. This is especially true for independent hotels and small regional hotel groups, who do not garner the marketing power and top of mind awareness that both the large OTAs and global chains enjoy.

Another enhancement the industry has seen recently with several global chain loyalty programs, including VOILÀ Hotel Rewards, is to leverage the program to drive more group sales. By awarding meeting planners with points for each booking generated, “Booker’s Programs” can be a powerful method to substantially increase high-margin meetings business.

What CX/customer engagement trends to you see or think will be most popular in 2016 and why?

Simplification will be a huge driver this year and for the foreseeable future. As mentioned earlier, people will not invest their already limited time to make sense of overly complex systems and unclear loyalty propositions. Mobile helps somewhat by giving loyalty members a more direct path to the programs and features that are most important to them. However, easy access is not enough and must come in tandem with a concerted effort to understand what members want and need most and – conversely – which features or program propositions are only creating noise and confusion. In many cases, less really is more. And, without a doubt, critical member use cases, such as booking paths, partner redemption and promotion opt-ins must be carefully tested and enhanced as part of the ongoing program development. For example, within the VOILÀ mobile app, members may opt into a promotion via a single tap, while previously they would need to traverse through a funnel that began with email, sometimes required a login and then finally allowed for opt-in into the promotion.

How does VOILÀ leverage customer insights to provide an overall better customer experience?

When we compare VOILÀ members vs. non-members across critical KPI’s, such as increase in direct bookings, repeat bookings, length of stay, and cross-group stays (stays at multiple hotels within a group), we see that each of these metrics are more favorable for members. We believe that a portion of these benefits is due to the core loyalty value proposition such as rewarding members for their stays with a tangible benefit. However, we also know that members receive a superior customer experience. Together, our hotelier partners and the VOILÀ team are 100% focused on ensuring that each member is satisfied with the program and their stay experience at the hotel.

To measure our members’ satisfaction, we solicit a significant amount of feedback, especially post-stay when the experience is freshest in the members mind. For example, VOILÀ members receive post-stay emails that summarize their stay, the number of points earned, and a request to provide feedback via a brief survey. One of the key quantifiable questions asked in the survey is a variation on the Net Promoter Score, e.g.: “In the future, how influential do you believe the VOILÀ loyalty program will be on your likelihood to stay at [Hotel X]?” Members that provide low scores to this question, and others in the survey, are immediately contacted to ensure that their satisfaction is secured. Feedback from member surveys, emails and calls is routinely incorporated into VOILÀ’s product roadmap, promotional plans, hotel partnership pipeline and CRM strategies – making VOILÀ a true customer-centric enterprise.

Reprinted with permission. Original article: