No Wonder Hotel Loyalty Programs Can Break
Loyalty programs are as simple as: You book, you stay, you get points, and when you have enough points, you get free stuff—usually hotel rooms, but often gift cards, other travel products or even “backstage access” to memorable lifetime experiences.
But for the hotel company to manage and fulfill these promises adds up to a mountainous challenge in the areas of technology, operations and marketing. This article delves into three of the most common technological problem areas—those most likely to fail and break the promise:
- duplicate profiles; and
- identity management.
These aren’t the only weak links in the chain, but a great place to begin to understand where fragility exists in the loyalty ecosystem.
Let’s start with internal interfaces, those where the loyalty program system (LPS) is interfaced to other applications under the direct control of the hotel company or their chosen vendors, over whom the hotelier has great influence. These include the central reservation system (CRS), the property management system (PMS), the content management system (CMS) and the Brand.com website.
Loyalty/CRS interfacing entails precisely associating a reservation transaction to a profile and a loyalty membership, securely, easily and at any point in the reservations process. This interface needs to operate in real time. Passing more than just the membership number, program status, member preferences and upgrade or promotional eligibility all come into play. A communications glitch or a mismatch in message format spells doom.
Most member interactions with the brand and the program also are likely to occur in real time on Brand.com. The content management system and web server application must interact tightly with the loyalty program, often in a highly collaborative dance between the loyalty application, website and CRS.
Remember the point above about connecting the reservation with the loyalty membership at any point in the process? Pulling off a seamless experience no matter when the guest logs in and authenticates as a member—before the reservation, during the reservation or at the end—requires the website to artfully manage the session variables in memory while the active window goes from interacting with the CRS to interacting with the loyalty program and back. And if the member has multiple windows open in their browser, it gets even more complicated to control the sessions.