Fully electronic, thought out down to the last detail and original in many ways, the loyalty programme implemented by Rezidor SAS (which owns the operating rights to Carlson brands in the EMEA zone) acts as a model for this kind of programme.
Launched in March 2003, Gold Points is Rezidor SAS’s loyalty programme created for business travellers living in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. While the Scandinavian group had fallen a bit behind the competition, this lag actually benefited it: “we were able to learn from everyone else’s mistakes and make a new and competitive offer,” explains the group’s marketing director. The launch coincided strategically with that of a new multi-brand portfolio of the group throughout Europe and the Middle East. After some reorganization, the Gold Points system was reactivated in May 2005 under the name “Gold Points Plus”, the name it continues to operate under today.Finally, Gold Points have also made it possible to increase the productivity of the teams by giving them a powerful tool for negotiating with key account clients, on the one hand, and, on the other, by increasing customer satisfaction thanks to the many possibilities for amicable dispute solutions, a natural aspect of the programme. Moreover, the effectiveness of the plan earned its nomination to the 2005 Hospitality Awards for “Best Customer Relation Management Programme”, to the Freddie Awards, which rewards the best frequent travel programmes, and to the International Hotel Programme Member Communications.The concept itself is classic but very careful attention has been paid to how it works: the client accumulates a volume of points that is proportional to his spending for each night spent or meeting held at one of the brands operated by Rezidor. The advantages for Gold Points holders are extensive and cover all aspects of the stay. Above all, benefits start the first night of the activation of the card. This may be a reduced price on dinner. Members receive their permanent card at reception and may begin earning points immediately. All documentation concerning the Gold Points programme is available in six languages. There are three “levels” for members: Red, Silver and Gold, ranking members according to their level of loyalty. Each level corresponds to a status and special privileges, which, of course, increase proportionately. It may also be observed that the rate of accumulation also depends on the brand: 20 points per euro spent at a Radisson SAS or Regent Hotel property versus 10 points at a Country Inn or Park Inn. Then, Gold Points may be traded for free nights in more than 400 hotels worldwide, and that very night may even be reserved before reaching a sufficient number of points. The acquired points may also be converted into airline miles on twelve partner companies or donated to a charity. For an initial investment of 1.5 million euros, the programme is led by a special team at the headquarters of Rezidor SAS in Brussels and is part of the Customer Relationship Management department (CRM).Earning Gold Points is not limited to the EMEA zone. It is also possible to earn them during stays at partner Carlson hotels in America, Asia, Australia and the south Pacific at Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Park Inn and Park Plaza Hotels and Country Inns & Suites. The programme is fully accessible and manageable online by customers and staff alike on an internet platform that is accessible to programme members (www.rzgp.com). Each member has an account that may be visualised using a simple password identification. In this way, the communication is much more targeted: members receive offers and information bulletins that correspond perfectly to their profile and the history of their stays at the brand’s properties. A quarterly e-newsletter called Time Zones has just been added to this system.Behind the obvious goal of growing loyalty, Rezidor SAS also has other ambitions: generate a business customer database of more than 150,000 members (it had 110,000 at the end of 2005); stimulate its rate of activity; draw in new clients; develop communications that are more targeted and that concentrate on customer relations.A second series of concerns lies on the margin of these priority goals. First of all stimulate brand recognition and develop a more local dimension in customer relations. Thus programme members receive special offers at restaurants in Rezidor properties located in their region. Gold Points also make it easier to identify the best clients of the group, and rank the others in different categories depending on their levels of brand loyalty. It is thus easier to recognize a future “best client” and offer him or her favours right from the start of its relationship with the brand. Gold Members also enjoy occasional surprises that aim at showing the group’s gratitude: invitation to the opening of a new hotel, bonus Gold Points for free or even exclusive offers outside the usual schemas. Moreover it is an interesting marketing tool that makes it possible to better orient spendings and to understand their benefits more precisely. The Gold Points may also be used as a mean of simple and efficient compensation to resolve disputes with a discontent client.Rezidor SAS did not enter the loyalty development adventure blindly. A great number of studies were conducted with industry experts and consumer groups first. “We have retained a few golden rules that are: always keep our promises; make personalized offers as often as possible; treat members the same way whether they are travelling for business or pleasure; implement a system for earning points that is clear and easy to understand; and first and foremost: take notice of criticism from consumers and work from there.”The commercial effectiveness of the Gold Points Plus concept is evaluated directly in terms of basic transactions. Behavioural data are also studied to better understand customer needs depending on their demographic profile and life style. Each hotel in the group has a programme “ambassador” on its staff who is up to date on all the programme’s subtleties and able answer all questions. “This stimulated the involvement of hotel teams and allowed us to constitute a community of enthusiasts that offer us immediate feedback about the programme’s application in situ”.Finally, Gold Points have also made it possible to increase the productivity of the teams by giving them a powerful tool for negotiating with key account clients, on the one hand, and, on the other, by increasing customer satisfaction thanks to the many possibilities for amicable dispute solutions, a natural aspect of the programme. Moreover, the effectiveness of the plan earned its nomination to the 2005 Hospitality Awards for “Best Customer Relation Management Programme”, to the Freddie Awards, which rewards the best frequent travel programmes, and to the International Hotel Programme Member Communications.
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