Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lovely hotel. Tough loyalty program.

From November 2008 through early January of this year, I spent several weeks working in LA and was fortunate enough to be put up at the Fairmont hotel in Santa Monica. All in all, a really fine place to stay, with friendly attentive service, a pleasant lobby bar and comfy rooms with a view of the Malibu coast.

I of course joined the Fairmont’s loyalty program, the President’s Club, and for starters earned free Internet access throughout my visit, saving $10 bucks a day. A nice perk. But like most of us, I had my eye on the big prize—a free night’s stay.

I reviewed the program requirements and while they seemed a bit steep at 30 nights for eligibility, I racked up 25 nights in November and December 2008 and 5 nights in January ’09. By the end of the project, I had nailed the stay threshold for a free night on the nose. Yes!

There was just one issue.

Upon checking my President’s Club account in late-January, I discovered I only had a balance of 5 nights in the “bank”. My 25 nights from 2008 had been wiped off the slate. The reason: it seems the program resets at January 1 of each year, wiping out all nights accrued over the previous calendar year.

Now we can all understand accrued nights expiring at some point—but nights I had earned as late as December 20th had been wiped off my earnings statement, giving them a shelf life of a little more than 10 days. About the same as a container of milk.

I fired off an e-mail to a program representative and within 48 hours had a response. A nice one, indeed. I had been granted entrĂ©e into the top level Platinum Club, and with it received my free night’s stay—which I’ll soon be enjoying with my family at a very fine Fairmont hotel in New York City.

In the end, my faith was restored in the Fairmont and its loyalty program. My membership had been bumped to top tier status, I had received the reward I felt was rightly mine, and I will again stay at the hotel the next time business calls (as well as spread some WOM love, my brother just finished a stay there).

But as a loyalty enthusiast, I have a nagging concern in the back of my head: What of other program members in similar situations who may choose to protest their lost nights by switching to another hotel? Seems to me the Fairmont may want to do a little tinkering with the finer points of their program.

1 comment:

  1. Good point. But my tuppence worth of views:
    No matter how hard you tinker with a product - loyalty or otherwise to cater to the least common denominator, there would be a significant section of users who would chance upon a situation or atleast perceive as being unfair. I do not think much can be done about it proactively because it would be humanly not possible to run through all scenarios. But to address such situations, the mangers/supervisors onsite i.e. those managing the operations quite way down the pecking order should be empowered to take corrective action. This will enable quick TAT in addressing customer issues. Nothing would help retain a customer better than being attended to extremey fast. I guess the quick comeback (within 48 hrs) clinched the issue with you.
    In most cases atleast in India I have seen that even after talking to teh supervisor, I havent got an answer whether a yes or a no. It is always we will get back.