A reader (who prefers that I don’t thank them by name) passes along details of an interesting survey they took for the Club Carlson (Radisson, Country Inns, Park Inn, etc) program.
I just want to drop a line about a.. 20 minute survey I just took on behalf of Club Carlson. C[lub] C[arlson] is toying with the idea of doing away with award night/free stays for points, and instead allowing guests who earn points to be treated as an elite, by paying with points (or cash).
The ideas presented in the survey were great–until I got to the ..very end of the survey, which asked me if I would prefer the new system of “elite treatment” (my words) or free award stays. Naturally I said I would prefer the free award stays!
This is an interesting survey. And I should begin by cautioning that airline and hotel programs survey lots of ideas, all the time Most of those ideas never see the light of day.
So let’s take away any specific speculation about things that Club Carlson might actually be ready to do differently. And just play with the idea for a moment.
I can’t imagine Club Carlson actually giving up award stays as part of their program — or as an option for guests — but I could see a program offering a choice of either (1) more bonus points, or (2) better in-hotel treatment.
A program has a budget, and benefits cost money (for the most part). Figuring out how to prioritize is something all programs do. an the really creative programs figure out ways of letting the member decide, personalizing the investment, or put a different way of directing the spend themselves to the things they value most. That’s the idea behind elite programs that give choices of benefits. It’s the idea behind Starwood asking Platinums to choose their 500 point check-in amenity or breakfast (well, ok, it’s also a way of offering breakfast and partially funding the benefit at the same time!).
While i don’t expect Club Carlson to make the earning side of their program more generous than it already is, one could imagine a program that increasing bonus points earning and did not automatically offer elite stay credit. Then members who care about elite benefits could ‘spend’ their points on better in-hotel treatment… including better options than Club Carlson hotels currently offer to elites (eg restaurant breakfast, whether for a single stay or for a year).
I don’t think this is actually a good tradeoff for a hotel to make, the points used for stays cost quite a bit more than elite stay credits in the accounts of members who never make status (so they incur a real cost that many more members actually use).
But some variant of the idea of “figuring out what matters most to our members” is nothing new for a hotel chain to survey. And I find the most interesting things about these surveys often comes from seeing several of them over time, to see what kinds of questions a single program is asking and also across chains what sorts of questions the entire industry seems to be asking, and to a certain extent that’s how I develop my own point of view about what direction programs and the industry are headed.
I asked my correspondent for some more detail, and received this followup about the survey.
All throughout the survey I was asked if I would like to spend my points towards becoming a member in the “Executive Club”, which would entitle me to: concierge benefits, i.e. a dedicated Carlson rep online or on ‘phone, who could offer me assistance in finding out more local info; discounts with local partners like restaurants…being recognized by name (!); and allowed access to hotel facilities, even when not staying on property. These would include access to the fitness room, meeting room, and swimming pool. These benefits would also be available to anyone traveling in my party and/or immediate family members.
Clearly Club Carlson seens that while they’re currently generous on the earning and burning portion of the program, elite benefits and recognition are a weakness.
It was interesting to me to see them talking about the value of on-property benefits “even when not staying on property” — because that’s something that the old Radisson program used to offer in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa program to all of their elites. They called it “Our World, Your Lounge” and let elites feel welcome in hotel lobbies any time they wished, to use free internet and have a coffee.
I’ve always been intrigued the idea of being welcomed any time, as a person and a valued guest, regardless of your rate (and indeed even when not paying on that given day) if you’re in fact an important and valued customer. And I’ve wished that other hotel chains would pick up on the idea. Instead, it went by the wayside even with Radisson with the introduction of the Club Carlson program two years ago.
So thanks, anonymous reader, for passing this one along. And to the rest of you, I always appreciate your tips — especially the juicy ones!