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Are You Experienced?

If you’re in the consulting business, then you are used to buzzwords proliferating before their meaning is fully understood or practical means exist to put them into practice.

As loyalty and rewards programs became more widespread in corporate America over the past decade, many became burdened by “sameness” and consumers voted their acknowledgment of parity by disengaging.

In some ways, it’s no wonder that Groupon caught the attention of the market. Consumers were thrilled to be on the receiving end of 40-50% discount offers and brands felt as though they finally had a differentiating tool with which they could break from the “pack.”

At the same time, terms like Customer Engagement and Customer Experience came into focus. We’ve been talking about Customer Experience for a while on our Kobie blog and felt like it was time to let you know why we think Customer Experience is much more than a buzzword, in fact it is central to executing great loyalty program design.

It might boil down to this: our customers, the consumer, human beings – none of them care about our strategy, our technology, our database, our CRM. What they care about is what they see, hear and feel when connecting with the brands we serve. They care that they get the value they feel they deserve from a brand, that they are recognized for their patronage, that the brand knows them, and that their comments and survey responses are valued. Taken together, this becomes the definition of customer experience, and it is what we need to nurture as marketers if we are to be successful in the loyalty game.

  • If we fail to educate and empower our front-line employees to deliver information about our programs with enthusiasm and belief, then we miss the boat.
  • If we entice consumers into the store with great offers (even 50% off) and we disappoint through poor service delivery or as result of capacity problems, we miss the boat.

Traveling this week, I used Hotels.com to make a last minute reservation. I was unfamiliar with the area I was intending to stay and placed faith in the “star” system rating properties on the site. I did not make a reservation just based on price and location, but chose from among several that were equally convenient and in the same price range based on the ratings from other users of the site.

In this case, and it has happened before, the hotel I chose was a disappointing one. It was a little off the beaten path and I was forced to take a taxi to find a place for dinner. The rooms were average at best. Only the smiling face of the desk person offset the other shortcomings, but in the end, it was not enough.

I won’t stay at the same hotel in the future and these experiences with Hotels.com have diluted my enthusiasm for their site and service even souring me a little on their Welcome Rewards program. It’s great to get a deal on a hotel room, but if the rating system they promote is unreliable, then Hotels.com becomes nothing more than a price game.

Customer Experience should be carefully curated to deliver the value we promise in our loyalty programs. Successful integration of loyalty marketing value propositions into the customer experience will take the consumer eyes off the “points” and redirect their attention to the in-store or on-site experience.

Jimi Hendrix asked “are you experienced?” a long time ago. The 2011 version of this rhetorical question has to be “did you enjoy your experience?”

Check out our additional insights into the customer experience in travel in our Kobie Review: Travel and Hospitality Magazine.

Bram Hechtkopf

Bram Hechtkopf