Any friend of the brand... Hyatt widens the gate to loyalty

Observation: Some analysts expect the new Hyatt loyalty program to do very well. Living in a city where the Hyatt restaurants are major venues for local business meetings, I can see how this might work. 

Nasdaq: Why Hyatt Introduced Its New Loyalty Program?, 2016-Nov-30 by Trefis Team

The new loyalty program will let customers earn points through the dollars they spend at Hyatt brands. In turn, they can use them with a number of eligible nights to qualify for loyalty membership, which is not done by other major hotel chains. Earlier, customers had to stay for a certain number of nights or stays in order to qualify for loyalty membership. Additionally, Hyatt will also reward customers who visit 5 or more Hyatt brands by awarding them with free stay for 1 night. We believe that by doing this, Hyatt has made its services more attractive and is likely to gain new customers in the coming quarters. This is a long-term strategy in order to lure premium hotel customers, as this strategy is designed to reward customers with longer stays without paying extra for upgrades and premium services.

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Gamestop Follows Its Customer Further into Loyalty Games

Observation: GameStop evolves WITH its core customer, integrating gaming and loyalty mechanics.

Loyalty360: GameStop Positively Evolves Brand Loyalty, 2016-Nov-30 by Jim Tierney 

...[CEO] Raines said the foundation for all the [GameStop] company’s businesses is its PowerUp Rewards program.

“At roughly 50 million members worldwide, the CRM program brings us many advantages,” he said. “First, it brings us deep consumer insights as we execute weekly and monthly consumer survey panel to understand their behavior in gaming, collectibles, mobile, and other products. As an example, we discovered through our PowerUp Rewards catalog that our gaming consumers really like the ThinkGeek items for the use of their points, which led us, ultimately, to the acquisition of that innovative website called ThinkGeek.com.”

Another advantage, he added, is that company officials can pinpoint specific collectible items consumers want. “PowerUp also allows us to have tailored communication directly with members via email or their PowerUp phone app,” Raines added.

Doug Sutherland, loyalty specialist, Dynamics, told Loyalty360 that he is very impressed by GameStop’s ability to layer loyalty over its superior brand experience.

“GameStop continues to lead its industry and the brand continues to evolve positively, appealing to a demographic that ages with the company,” Sutherland explained. “Many of today’s more successful loyalty mechanics have evolved from the original game mechanics, including achievements, tiers, points, and community. It makes perfect sense then that by combining the ideals of loyalty with its knowledge of game mechanics, the PowerUp Rewards program has grown to 50 million members, with both a basic program and a pro membership (where a nominal $15 annual cost more than doubles a member’s reward potential).”


Tentative Loyalty with Stage Stores

We try to follow the hometown companies carefully, trying to be loyal to our own compatriots. Being, with Stage Stores, in Houston, a big old metropolis, we had to hear about the Stage loyalty program from a small-town newspaper in Jackson County, Ohio. In case you don't know, Stage Stores operates Goody's, Palais Royal, Beall's and several other department stores brands focused on small-town America. 

We're very fascinated by their Style Circle Community but joining doesn't create obvious benefits. We signed up, got a confirmation email, then everything seemed to get eery quiet. In the meantime, other retailers like Charming Charlies and Dressbarn sent a deluge of offers. 

We think the premise of this program is good, and we hope to find them being more visible, more handy. Go Stage!

Jackson County Times Journal: Stage Stores Unveils New Loyalty Program, 2016-Sep-27

[Get] Exclusive access to Style Circle Community, an online forum, where customers can learn about style trends, fashion tips and engage with other members.

Enrolling is free and easy — To enroll, Stage customers simply provide their name, phone number, email address and birthday at the register. Style Circle members will earn their first $5 Style Circle Reward at sign-up.

New Stage credit accounts will be automatically enrolled and receive a 15 percent first-day discount and a 10 percent first-day discount on cosmetics, in addition to their first $5 Style Circle Reward.

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How Salesforce models loyalty

Salesforce is a tremendous tool for enabling loyalty among our customers. The only challenge is figuring how to use the overwhelming amount of data and activities it provides. (We can help you with that.) 

Being a part of the Salesforce user base inspires loyalty in many different ways. When I quit my last job I seriously considered consulting for Microsoft Dynamics. (You can't pry me out of Outlook.) After participating in user groups for both, I found that getting more involved with Salesforce was easier, more fun, and more productive. Free training tools are everywhere. Salesforce the company is extremely loyal to both its customer and its partners. 

Dreamforce has not tempted me. I hate crowds, I prefer online learning tools to the classroom, and I'm not at home with cheerleaders. Out of the blue, I found this story from Salesforce user, yoga instructor and newsletter writer Kelly Barrett. And I found yet another reason to admire Salesforce the company. And maybe I'll buck the trend and go to next year's Dreamforce. But I wouldn't go for the beginning, where they have the free concerts and famous people giving keynotes. I would go for the last day when they share their values and aspirations. 

Om Weekly: What I Learned from a Monk at a Tech Conference, 2016-Oct-11 by Kelly Barrett

...the most inspiring moments came on the last day [of Dreamforce 2016], The Day of Compassion.

Settling into my seat for this final keynote (all are online if you want to watch), the energy was palpably different from the days prior. There was a gentleness, like the calm after a storm. Indeed, the room was nowhere near as full as other sessions, but there also was a sense of easeful engagement, human connectivity and warmth that I hadn't experienced up to that point. On stage came a series of incredible presentations and discussions among people whose life work has been around using compassion to transform people's lives, whether through medicine, mindfulness or humanitarian missions. 

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How Wyndham designs a loyalty program for the rest of us

When I travel, I don't look for luxury. I'll pay extra for a unique experience, but I'll also settle for clean and efficient, so I can get out and experience my destination. Wyndham Hotels, with its high percentage of budget and moderately-priced offerings, is looking to appeal to mainstream travelers like myself.

Their loyalty program reflects their customers’ values almost perfectly. They say their target market is the “everyday traveler.” Wyndham Rewards makes it easy to stretch your hotel dollar. In fact, their program came to my attention because they were recently recognized as the program providing the highest economic return for dollars spent. (See research from Switchfly and IdeaWorksCompany at the end of this post.)

Skift: Wyndham Rewards adds Experiences, 2016-May-12 by Deanna Ting

When Wyndham Rewards debuted in May 2015, it signaled a major shift in hotel loyalty program structures by adopting a straightforward, simple approach to earning and redeeming points: 15,000 points to stay at any one of the group’s 7,800 hotels around the world, with no blackout dates, at brands that include Wyndham, Ramada, Tryp by Wyndham, Days Inn, and Super 8.

That strategy appears to be working. Since May, 5 million new members have signed up for the program and there has been a 70-percent increase in property redemptions, according to Wyndham. Last year, just under 75 percent of all redemptions were for hotel stays. By comparison, in 2013, the same year when there was massive consumer backlash to program restructuring, only 55 percent of redemptions were for hotel stays. Today, Wyndham Rewards has more than 45 million members.

Wall Street Journal [paywall]: The Best and Worst Hotels for Cashing in Rewards Points, 2016-Oct-5 by Scott McCartney

Many Wyndham members used to cash in points for gift cards and gas cards. But now they’re booking the company’s most expensive properties in Orlando, Fla., New York, Chicago, Dubai and elsewhere, says Noah Brodsky, senior vice president for loyalty and engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group.

“We’ve made a commitment that we are going to provide an incredibly generous loyalty program. We believe, and the numbers are proving, that by having the best loyalty offering out there we will win people’s business,” Mr. Brodsky says.

The company says it made the change after research showed consumers felt loyalty programs had gotten way too complicated and had been devalued by lack of airline seats.

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Customer loyalty is easier to get if you do something unusual

What can we do for our customers they can't find someplace else? Maybe it's just the way we do it that makes the difference. 

NY Times: The Neighborhood Bookstore’s Unlikely Ally? The Internet, 2016-Oct-5 by Amy Haimerl

[Independent book store] owners like Mr. Makin are finding ways to gain customer loyalty with the aid of technology. He knew he could not compete with Amazon on price, but he believed that online buyers would flock to Brilliant Books if they experienced the same customer service that shoppers in his physical store do.

“I say, ‘We are your long-distance local bookstore,’” Mr. Makin said.

He began offering free shipping anywhere in the United States and hired a full-time social media manager, who promotes the store and has used Twitter and Facebook to talk to readers who would never find themselves near Traverse City.

One of his most successful ways of getting repeat business is his store’s version of a book-of-the-month program, which makes personalized recommendations for each of its nearly 2,000 subscribers every 30 days. Rather than use an online form to track preferences, Brilliant sends each new subscriber a customer card to fill out by hand and mail back.

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Meet a Loyalty Game Changer at Electronic Arts

Have you seen a program on CBS called Game Changers? We see the tail end of it every Sunday morning before our favorite news program. We noticed its sponsorship by EA Sports and suspected it was a promotion for electronic games. Then we realized the show is about pro athletes serving their communities. So we wondered how EA Sports got involved. Whose idea was it?

A little research revealed several interesting stories about Game Changers and EA (Electronic Arts). 

  1. The Game Changers TV show was developed by an independent production company. Local stations use it to meet the FCC rule to provide children's programming. It's targeted to teenagers, and it's much better than many programs they used to air. We should support it, as EA Sports does. 

  2. The phrase 'game changers' occurs all the time in EA marketing and news. EA recognizes and supports innovation. 

  3. The EA Sports division has had a few different programs going by the name Game Changers. They all support customer involvement, loyalty and community. 

Our research revealed how Electronic Arts has improved its handling of customers over the last few years. So this really is a story about CRM! Changes at EA may have been accelerated by EA's winning Consumerist's Worst Company poll in 2012 and 2013. Yet we saw evidence that employees were already working on new processes before that happened. 

Some people credit the change in top leadership, but listen to this guy who manages their IT systems, who arrived at EA in February 2011. 

Jeff Bradburn of EA (Electronic Arts) as interviewed by Lucian Tucker in blog post Breaking Into the Industry, 2012-Apr-9:

We are always focused on making every single interaction with our customers count. It's another core objective of ours: "Exceed expectations by delighting our customers, the same way our games do." So we want to know as much about our customers as we can and match them with the right agent for their problem.

Most people are familiar with the typical phone experience, where you dial a number and press 1 for X, 2 for Y, etc. We want to take that a step further. If we know our customers – what they own, what they've called about in the past, and (if they allow us to) what they like – we can find an agent that can connect with them based on their need, or even their interests. We are also very interested in the concept of allowing customers to choose their own agent. We've got some really interesting things brewing there.

Another interesting project is around community support. EA is very lucky in that we have very passionate customers that love to participate in forums. We think that there's something really special there for support needs. We want to let customers help other customers and in the process get something uniquely "EA" out of the experience. I can't disclose all of the details, but I think we've really got something special up our sleeves.

And we aren't just focused on our customers. We want to make sure we have the best Customer Advisors (agents) in the world, and we want them to have the best tools in the world. We are investing heavily this year in creating a single unified tool that streamlines the Advisor experience, which ultimately creates a vastly improved experience for our customers.

Jeff Bradburn had a business background from Apple customer support. His team selected Salesforce products and customized it to support EA customers, who are called 'players.'

From the EA success story on Salesforce web site:

EA’s Worldwide Customer Experience team created immersive, interactive websites to help customers quickly access up-to-the-minute status updates, engage with EA game advisors, and discuss hot topics with other members of the community. Most importantly, gamers can immerse themselves in the EA brand. With Salesforce, EA was able to grow its advisor staff from 400 to 1,600 in only 6 weeks. And, EA’s Worldwide Customer Experience websites were able to manage millions of hits per week during peak launch periods.

“Salesforce helped us execute on our transformation at a faster pace than anyone thought would be possible,” says Bradburn. “The close relationships we’re building with customers are a real game changer.” [Emphasis added.]

 Here's why we're very impressed with everything Bradburn and his team at EA have accomplished:

  • 'Players' are recognized as individual people who are connected to other people and often play more than one EA game. 

  • Strong relationships between players and EA employees are nurtured. While this story focuses on the customer support, we also found many stories about strong relationships between players and game developers at EA. 

  • EA invests in training and technology so EA employees can support the players. 

  • Interactions across many different platforms are integrated so the company can operate in the 'omnichannel' style which is so highly prized in customer experience. 

When customers are frustrated and loyalty is dying, employees up and down the organization have to take ownership of the problem and demonstrate they care more about the customer than corporate profits. The CEO is often the worst person to assist because he spends too much time talking to investors, but if he empowers the people who spend all day talking with customers--amazing things can happen. 

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Rosetta Stone builds loyalty by helping customers realize their aspirations

One of the most effective ways to build long-term relationships with our customers is to help them become more powerful, successful and fulfilled. You can learn more about this concept from Michael Schrage. Rosetta Stone narrows in on their customers' desire to become multilingual. And they don't just sell a product or service. They commit to transform their customers. 

VentureBeat: How Rosetta Stone transformed old-school loyalty into massive mobile app engagement, 2016-Jul-13, Interview of Rosetta Stone's TJ Hunter by Stewart Rogers

First thing’s first, Hunter says. “Respect the customer. And you do that by understanding what the customer’s problem is. Now decide how mobile can help you continue to solve it — not help you continue to get more users or more usage, because that’ll come naturally.”

For Rosetta Stone, it’s understanding that language learning is aspirational — users want to connect with their own heritage or culture, to travel, to advance, or change their career. And that means the company’s marketing focus is on more than just getting a customer to start the journey with a sale; they see it as a journey to motivate the user to continue using the product so that their aspirations become reality.

“Is it easy? No. In interpersonal human communication, it’s hard to understand what someone is saying and then to be able to respond,” Hunter says. “And in a marketing relationship, it’s even tougher.”

But that focus on communication is what engages customers, and turns them into the kind of fans who become evangelists for life, and keep breathing life into your app — the holy grail of marketing strategy.

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Handshakes in CRM

Technology allows us to stay in touch with people and even automates those touches, but technology cannot build a relationship. It builds awareness and educates. To practice CRM, you actually have to maintain a relationship with a customer by interacting with them IRL (in real life). 

Bisnow: Why You Still Need a Handshake, 2016-Aug-22, Interview of Mark Fitzpatrick of RUHM by Kyle Hagerty

Mark isn't suggesting running away from technology; it's become a critical part of our way of life. Instead, Mark wants to reinforce the predecessor of social media: the handshake. While having a robust LinkedIn profile may confirm your credibility, there’s no technology that can replace a strong grip and warm smile to seal a deal. What’s more, beyond gaining new business, interpersonal relationships are just as important for sustaining business. Here are three reasons why:

  1. You Can Build Credibility Through Likability
  2. You Can Network To Make Lasting Connections
  3. You Can Keep Your Personal Brand Personable 

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Jet Blue seeks latest tech for helping customers

Committed to staying on the leading edge of customer service, JetBlue has created a technology incubator in Silicon Valley to encourage new solutions to travel challenges. Mozio helps travelers get transportation to and from the airport. 

Loyalty 360:Technology meets humanity for JetBlue and JetBlue Technology Ventures to improve customer experience, 2016-Aug-4 by Mark Johnson

The acquisition of Mozio by JetBlue Technology Ventures is a further indication that parent JetBlue continues to strengthen its technical capabilities in support of its overall mission to inspire humanity. At the core of that effort is finding the best ways to listen to the consumer.

“Because everything is starting with this new way of listening, we are, from the customer perspective, spending time in Silicon Valley looking at that,” Scott Resnick, Director of Loyalty Marketing for JetBlue, told  Loyalty360. “We know there is technology out there that when customers reach out for help, and they’re using a certain tone and certain kinds of words, provides a footprint that can help find the best way to help that customer.” 

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