Starwood Preferred Guest has been on a tear over the past three years.
First they introduced a whole new suite of elite status benefits including suite night awards and free breakfast along with 24 hour check-in for top elites.
Then a year later — in early 2013 — they introduced additional points-earning and elite recognition in conjunction with Delta (and then added upgradeson Delta for Starwood Platinums).
And they’ve launched several initiatives in just the past two months:
- Starwood launched its new Emirates partnership, Your World Rewards
- They became the first major chain to offer keyless room entry, using your mobile phone for room access
- SPG Preferences — customizing room assignments — was introduced
- SPG Pro bringing their meetings and executive assistant programs under the same umbrella with SPG.
I had a great conversation with Chris Holdren, Senior VP of Starwood Preferred Guest and Digital, the other day. It was wide ranging and pretty insightful, I thought, so I figured I would pass along some of what I learned in the conversation — this time about customized room choices and suite night awards.
You’ll Actually Know If You’ve Been Upgraded
It turns out that company-wide there’s been a huge effort to catalog the features of each room, apparently “very hotel captured 80 attributes for each hotel room” like “best view, quiet room” and Starwood plans to measure and monitor at the corporate level the extent to which rooms assignments match stated room preferences by members.
The process sounds quite extensive, as Starwood
built a custom mobile app for associates to use and went through every single hotel room across 9 brands and over 100 countries. [They] captured up to 80 attributes per room. Over 12 million pieces of information about hotel rooms we can use to exceed expectations of SPG members.
Key areas of focus for us as we rolled out preferences, are our ability to look on an individual hotel level and individual member level, are member preferences being met as they share travels with us?
And here’s something that will be newsworthy: they’ll be rolling out an enhancement to their mobile app to let members know what was delivered in terms of their upgrade and meeting their expressed preferences.
I used to check into a Starwood hotel and get the room key with a “You have been upgraded!” post-it sticky attached. And whenever I got that it was a sure sign that I hadn’t been upgraded. Moving the claim into the app and matching up the room assignment against details of the specific room on file with SPG, and noting the extent to which preferences have been matched, sounds like a great step forward in transparency and also something that can help SPG monitor the extent to which hotels are doing a good job with upgrades and preference matching.
Starwood Considering Extending Suite Night Awards.. Again
When Starwood rolled out their Suite Night Awards for Platinum members who had stayed 50 nights or more, they were talked about as ‘confirmed upgrades’ but they aren’t in the same sense that Hyatt offers them — they aren’t confirmed at booking but are instead assigned up to 5 days prior to check-in.
What Suite Night Awards really do is:
- Let Platinum members express a preference for when they want to prioritize getting an upgrade.
- Take the upgrade process out of the hands of the individual hotel, and let corporate assign the upgrades based on available room inventory.
Both are revolutionary advances, and yet there are plenty of members not fully satisfied with the new upgrades.
No doubt some hotels have gamed their inveotory (although SPG likely knows who any offenders are). There are hotels that get a ton of Platinums on a given night, that don’t have many suites, and that sell out their suites in advance. Expressing a preference for an upgrade doesn’t mean getting an upgrade.
SPG implicitly acknowledged that many members have had problems using their Suite Night Awards when in December of last year they extended the expiration of unused Suite Night Awards by four months, through the end of April.
Chris acknowledged, “Suite night awards, we continue to look at intently, we have a lot of work to do. We still have a lot more in the works to enhance the relationship we have with our most valuable guests.”
I asked specifically whether Suite Night Awards would again have their expiration extended, and he said that they’re “look[ing] at that as year-end is approaching, we’re still evaluating.”
And that makes sense — I had forgotten that last year’s announcement about extensions wasn’t announced until December.
How he thinks about the program overall,
Our goal is to make sure every single one of our platinum members stays is tremendous, until we get to that point we’re not going to rest. Our focus is on making sure our most valuable guests are having their expectations exceeded with each and every stay.
And he said “we plan to have more to say on Suite Night Awards soon.”
- You can join the 40,000+ people who see these deals and analysis every day — sign up to receive posts by email (just one e-mail per day) or subscribe to the RSS feed. It’s free. You can also follow me on Twitter for the latest deals. Don’t miss out!