Many businesses strive for loyal customers, but what exactly is this? What is important when it comes to loyalty? According to Peelen & Beltman (2013) loyalty is “a deeply held commitment to rebuy or repatronise a preferred product/service consistently in the future, thereby causing repetitive same brand or same brand-set purchasing, despite situational influences and marketing efforts having the potential to cause switching behaviour.” In the hotel industry this means: to make sure customers rebook at the same hotel chain at the same or a different destination.
Loyalty can be created by earning the customer’s trust. When there is trust in a relationship, customers are willing to take more risks. Their feelings of insecurity and doubt are gone. At the same time trust can lead to a higher level of commitment in the relationship.
Commitment can be defined as “an enduring desire to maintain a valued relationship”. Additionally, there are three levels of commitment: structural, moral and personal (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Looking from the perspective of a luxury hotel group personal commitment is where the aim should be. Personal commitment can be defined as “the desire someone displays to continue a relationship.” The relationship is felt internally and originates from a personal choice (Peelen & Beltman, 2013).
Customers should book the hotel because they enjoy staying there, not because they feel like they have to. However, one can play around a little bit with this. Many hotels nowadays offer loyalty programmes as an attempt to get customers to rebook with them over and over again, because it will give them certain benefits in return. A good example of one of these loyalty programmes is the Starwood Preferred Guest programme by Starwood hotels. Benefits of this programme are:
- Access to a wide variety of Starwood hotels
- Earn Starpoints that can be used
- For a free stay or an upgrade
- For redeeming frequent flier miles on over 30 participating airlines
- To go to music, sport, or cultural events
- To give it to charity
- Use of SPG app, which can be used to enter your room (no key necessary), to check your starpoints balance and to check upcoming stay details and elite status.
- Around the clock assistance by the SPG team
(Starwood Hotels, 2015)
Another essential aspect to gain loyalty is frequent communication on various communication channels. Four Seasons for example has introduced Fan Fridays on Facebook as a tribute to their customers. Customers can send in their photos every week of which the best one will be chosen and posted onto the Four Seasons Facebook account (Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts, 2015). While there is no actual price involved, customers still feel appreciated and recognised.
In addition, personal contact is very important when building commitment. One should make sure that it’s easy for customers to be helped, through both a real person and technology. They will be more committed to a company if they feel they are getting the attention they want and need.
In short, one can say customers are more likely to become loyal when there is understanding, benefits, efficiency and proper communication. Piece of cake, right…?
Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts. (2015). Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FourSeasons
Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. Pearson.
Starwood Hotels. (2015). Preferred Guest Programme. Retrieved from Starwood Hotels: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest/index.html