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  • RSA Group (owner of More Than) chief marketing officer, Pete Markey, talks about how marketers should be central in the customer experience

Hilton Worldwide relaunched its loyalty programme HHonors in March this year, as reported exclusively by Marketing Week. It wanted to focus on the experiences available to customers, rather than on the mechanics of amassing points. Eight months on the brand is already seeing results, with new HHonors customers and an uplift in the proportion of its business that comes from those in the scheme.

Senior vice-president of customer marketing Jeff Diskin says: “We are going to have more than 50% more new members this year than we did last year – the highest number of new enrolments we have ever had, in a programme that is nearly 25 years old. We are tracking at more than 45% of all occupancy globally coming from HHonors membership. That is also its highest level ever.”

The rewards on offer have been picked according to the data shared and preferences expressed by HHonors members. Hilton has also recently made 200,000 extra premium-rate rooms available for redemption of HHonors points. According to Diskin, customers booking online have begun taking advantage without Hilton even marketing this new availability – 20% of new redemptions are now made on premium rooms.

The data generated by the HHonors scheme gives Hilton’s marketing team “irrefutable” evidence of the customer experience strategy’s impacts on the financial health of the business, Diskin says. He adds that control testing was also done to add further weight to the figures.

“Earlier in the year, we did a promotion where if you stayed longer you got more points. For the first time in the history of the company, the length of the stay went up for the three months that the promotion ran.”

What is not as measurable is what incremental improvements in sales are attributable to customers’ general feelings about the experience at Hilton’s hotel brands, as opposed to the effects of experiences offered through promotions.

However, the HHonors programme has previously been used to demonstrate how negative customer experiences hurt business, according to Mike Ashton, who until 2008 was senior vice-president of international brand marketing for the company’s previous incarnation, Hilton Hotels Corporation.

He says that HHonors members were asked in their satisfaction surveys to point out where bad experiences had led them to decide not to return. “Over a period of time, we demonstrated the amount of business that we were losing because of things we were not getting right. It becomes very hard to argue with the amount of money that you are losing because of things you are doing that do not match up to what the customers expect.”