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Hilton Declares Loyalty to Customers, Hoping They Fall in Love

September 17, 2014

Rewards programs and loyalty are frequently seen as interchangeable, but they are two fundamentally different things, according to one of the presenters at America’s Customer Festival in Las Vegas.

“Loyalty is about falling in love,” said Mark Weinstein, vice president of worldwide commercial services strategy and loyalty programs, Hilton Worldwide. “Loyalty is a word that is so over-used but really under-appreciated.”

Weinstein said if companies can get the customers to fall in love, the commercial returns will follow. At Hilton, he said, loyalty is about three things:

  • Customers should be more likely to repurchase.
  • Customers should give their full share of wallet.
  • Customers should actively advocate their brands.

The Hilton HHonors program has 41 million members traveling to 11 Hilton brand hotels, with half of the 700,000 rooms in the system filled every night with HHonors members. The company is well aware of the value of those members, as Weinstein said the top-tier HHonors members equal as much to them as 16 non-HHonors members.

In the past couple of years, Hilton flipped its attitude toward loyalty completely upside down, according to Weinstein. Previously, it was about customers being loyal to Hilton and its brands and now, it's about Hilton's loyalty to them.

The model of a travel rewards program has changed in the past few years, Weinstein said. “It’s much more about dialogue, a conversation – a partnership. Our customers are making a bet on a brand and a relationship.”

For Hilton, that partnership means creating one-to-one relationships, empowering program members with choices and control and inspiring experiences worth sharing.

“It’s about being a lifestyle beyond just a hotel,” he said. “It’s about the social currency. It’s about knowing the best rooftop bar in Barcelona, or knowing where to stay for the most luxurious experience in Shanghai.” He said if Hilton can enable that through their ecosystem of partners and through internal capabilities, that’s how the it will ultimately win the hearts and minds of customers.

“Customers want to be affiliated with a brand they can trust and love,” Weinstein said. “If we stop worrying about the money itself and worry about that passion and inspire the heart, inspire the mind, connect with our customers, and give them that social currency, give them a relationship with us, and have a dialogue, that’s what generates the commercial returns.”