JD Power released their survey of hotel loyalty programs earlier in the week.
Here are their results:
The problem, though, is that their methodology doesn’t come close to supporting anything close to meaningful results. And their purported ‘takeaways’ completely miss the point.
Here’s what they say they measure:
The study measures customer satisfaction by examining four factors (in order of importance): ease of earning and redeeming rewards (35%); program benefits (27%); account management (22%); and member communication (16%).
Last year by the way account management was the number one factor in their rankings. That’s things like website appearance and ease of navigating the program’s mobile app. Go figure.
To be clear this survey doesn’t factor elite benefits into the rankings at all. And respondents aren’t generally elite members.
Deanna Ting of Skift covers the survey and quotes their head of travel and hospitality as acknowledging “it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison between this year and last year” in their results. That’s good, because:
- Hyatt went from near the bottom last year to second place by changing nothing whatsoever in its earn and redemption program. The only things that changed with World of Hyatt were elite benefits, changes that on net elites haven’t favored.
The head of travel for JD Power doesn’t know why World of Hyatt did so well.
J.D. Power didn’t cite any reasons why the program ranked so highly. “I think it’s one of the more unique programs that I see in the industry today. I think it has really resonated with the members of the program,” Garlick said,
Grand Hyatt San Francisco
- Starwood went from second to last to 5th really changing nothing at all.
Spa at the Andaman
That should make you skeptical. Along with La Quinta Returns being judged a better program than Wyndham Rewards and Club Carlson.
For this discussion I’m not super interested in whether or not Marriott is actually best. They offer a good redemption value for your spend at their properties, hotels everywhere (though not many aspirational ones where you’d dream of staying), and modest but improving elite benefits like 4 p.m. late check-out and breakfast as long as you’re not going on vacation at a resort or staying at a Courtyard property or a supposedly-luxury Ritz-Carlton.
Battle House Renaissance, Mobile, Alabama
JD Power offers several takeaways from its garbage in-garbage out work.
- “Frequent travelers want more than hotel stays” leaving aside that they’re not actually surveying frequent travelers, as I told Skift:
In a vacuum, [more redemption choices] always poll well: Would you like a hotel or a hotel and a pony? People will say, ‘Give me a hotel and a pony.’ But when it comes to actual consumer behavior, you have to take into account price and value, and you always get a better deal for redeeming for a hotel stay than having to use those points to buy other things.
..[W]hen you look at how they actually behave and what drives loyalty… those non-travel redemptions don’t work nearly as well as they do in generic polling.
- “Many customers do not understand how to redeem rewards” JD Power thinks programs need to “Provide more education to your customer base to teach them how to earn and redeem rewards, and you’ll drive up your share of wallet.”
However I suggest emailing how to’s to members isn’t going to help. You can offer quizzes with rewards, and that helps a little, but on the whole expecting members to understand earning and redemption at any time other than when they’re thinking about earning and redemption is wishful thinking.
Leff said it’s not just about providing education but meeting customers where they are. “Is it true that people don’t understand these programs? Sure, especially among the least- engaged members. You want them to be more engaged but you don’t get them more engaged by trying to teach them more about your program. You need to meet them where they are. I wouldn’t have too much consternation about less-engaged members not having program details top of mind.”
- “Loyalty program satisfaction boosts brand loyalty” and I have a belly button.