JP Power is out with its 2016 ranking of hotel loyalty programs and media seems to be taking it at face value without digging into the methodology — they report the rankings without understanding that it’s garbage in, garbage out. And that’s dangerous, as illustrated by industry site Skift:
Interestingly, the Starwood Preferred Guest program, beloved among frequent travelers, ranked near the bottom, and it’s never fared well in past J.D. Powers’ reports. So, why is it so admired, and why does Marriott want it so badly?
Here are JD Power’s 2016 rankings:
This isn’t simply one of those “these things are subjective” or “it depends on whom you ask” kinds of things. The survey is just fundamentally silly. That begins with the factors that go into their ranking:
- account maintenance/management (23%)
- ease of redeeming points/miles (22%)
- ease of earning points/miles (18%)
- reward program terms (16%)
- variety of benefits (16%)
- customer service (5%)
The most heavily-weighted factor in the rankings — nearly a quarter of it — was ‘account maintenance’. That simply isn’t the most meaningful factor in the value of a hotel loyalty program. Although it’s heartening for Hyatt Gold Passport, that if they could only get their IT right they might do better in these rankings, it doesn’t speak to what turns customers into evangelists and leads them to make repeat purchases independent of the value proposition on a given stay.
Note that ‘account maintenance’ isn’t “customer service” which is of course important — but is its own category worth only 5% of the survey’s weight.
Meanwhile account maintenance and terms and conditions are drivers (.pdf) of Hilton HHonors’ success:
Hilton HHonors scores high in the account maintenance/management factor (756) and also performs particularly well in the reward program terms and variety of benefits factors.
Things that are missing from the survey’s weightings:
- Elite benefits, entirely, other than ‘variety of benefits’. JD Power doesn’t tell us what that means but it appears different from quality or richness of benefits.
- Quality and value of redemptions. They focus on how easy it is to earn and burn, not how good what you actually get is. So it’s not about the value proposition.
This survey is about earn and redeem only, not about how well a program treats you (elite benefits) and strangely for something focusing only on redemptions it cares about ease of redemption but not what you actually get.
Meanwhile they draw such strong conclusions from a small sample of 3096 consumers, which is about 20% fewer people than they were even surveying two years ago.
And that lets them conclude that La Quinta Returns is better than Hyatt Gold Passport, and Drury Gold Key Club is better than Starwood Preferred Guest. We don’t have the underlying data set, but how many of those 3096 people could have been familiar with Drury? The results of the survey are self-refuting.