Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Westin and a healthy approach to earning customer trust.

Good advertising tells us what a product does and why you should buy it. Great advertising expresses what a brand stands for and invites you to share in its beliefs.
The quote above is from Edward Boches, the former Executive Creative Director at the Mullen ad agency, and I think it does a pretty good job of summing up why some advertising not only resonates with customers—its message is so powerful, it wins their confidence and trust. And a company that’s hitting that lofty target right now is Westin Hotels.
With a new global initiative called the Westin Well-Being Movement, the Westin brand seems to be taking a genuine interest in its customers’ health and well-being. The effort includes “innovative partnerships and programs” across what Westin calls its six pillars of well-being: “Sleep Well, Eat Well, Move Well, Feel Well, Work Well and Play Well”. It’s all reinforced by the campaign tag line “For a Better You”.
Westin appears to be delivering on its message and has set up a beautiful Web site to support the program. And looking over the program’s details, it appears they’re backing up their initiative with features that have real value and substance.
Here are a few of the areas that stand out to me:
  • One enticing feature of the Move Well pillar is a “Run Concierge” who can help “turn your workout into an exploration of the locale”. For a runner like me, often hesitant to run in an unknown area, I like this perk a lot. I’ll take an outdoor run over the treadmill any day.
  • The Eat Well pillar offers a signature SuperFoodsRx™ menu developed by doctors and nutritionists “that cultivates ‘food synergy’, the pairing of certain foods to increase their nutritional value so you can focus on meeting challenges of your day”. I’m not sure what it means, but it sounds interesting!
  • With the Play Well pillar you can indulge in a Heavenly Spa by Westin and—and if you’re traveling with kids, drop them at a Kids Club where they “get to explore with a Discovery Pack containing a disposable camera, compass and more…(and enjoy) activities that include storytelling and sandcastle competitions.”
All told, the Well-Being Movement is an initiative that sets Westin apart from its competitors, and also meets Boches’ criteria for great advertising and marketing. It not only expresses what the brand stands for but encourages customers to share in its beliefs.
Bravo to Westin for a program well done.
This post originally appeared on Loyalty Truth, May 2, 2014.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Is the customer experience the key to customer loyalty?

If you pressed me for a quick definition of loyalty marketing. I’d probably tell you it’s about “recognizing and rewarding best customers”. Yet, this definition leaves out what I believe is the most important factor in gaining your customers’ loyalty and keeping it: the customer experience.
After all, you can give me a spiffy reward or recognize me with upgrades and fancy perks—but if I’m bumped from my flight or my hotel room stinks of cigarettes or I’m hit with an unexpected service fee, you risk ticking me off and losing me as a customer. This got me thinking about a statement my former Frequency Marketing colleague (now leading Knowledge Development at Aimia) Rick Ferguson once made:
“It’s not about transactions, it’s about interactions.”
While it can be easy to get caught up in the data aspect of loyalty, we should never forget the importance of the ”interaction” in which a brand or company has a touch point with a customer. This can occur during a phone call to customer service, a response to a customer complaint via Twitter and most importantly, during face-to-face encounters in which a customer interacts with your company or brand.
I was reminded just how important the customer experience is during a recent stay at The Muse hotel in New York City, a part of the Kimpton boutique hotel chain. I’m a member of their InTouch loyalty program and generally, my stay there was great. The Muse’s lobby, under construction the last time I was there, looked fantastic. I found the staff to be cheerful and accommodating. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine at a complimentary happy hour, a nice touch.
There was just one major issue: upon waking Sunday morning I discovered there was no hot water—meaning no shower. I called the front desk and was first informed a service man would be sent up. 30 minutes went by, nothing. A second call revealed that in fact the problem was throughout the hotel and the person on the phone blamed the issue on “the city”.
I was travelling with my 14-year old daughter and, as those of you with teenage daughters can imagine, this became a big issue. We waited for over an hour to see if hot water might again begin to flow, but ended up venturing out shower-less. The problem did appear to be fixed once we returned a few hours later, but by then it was time to check-out.
The day after my visit, I received a survey in my e-mail inbox from The Muse asking me about my stay. It was one of those automated, check-the-box questionnaires which I dutifully completed. I gave them high marks overall, but in my comments mentioned the hot water glitch. I expected my response would disappear into a cyber-file somewhere to be reviewed at a later date. But that’s not what happened.
Within 2-3 hours of completing the survey, Sarah Rosenberg, the Guest Service Manager at The Muse, reached out to me via e-mail. She apologized for the inconvenience. And after I gave her a few more details, she responded by giving me a credit toward my room rate plus a special rate on my next visit.
So what could have been a fair-to-middling customer experience, was turned into a positive one—all because someone was paying attention to those automated customer surveys. And for me, it’s the difference between maybe staying at The Muse during my next NYC visit, and definitely staying there.
How about you—have you had any great customer experiences, lately?

This post originally appeared on Loyalty Truth, April 6, 2014.