Why engagement is becoming the new differentiator
For the first time in a decade, customer loyalty and engagement expectations have levelled off in each of the 55 categories tracked in the annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.
According to Brand Keys' president, Robert Passikoff, after being disappointed for so long, consumers have started to become more realistic in their expectations, and competitive differentiation is becoming more based upon experience and emotional engagement than on rational product and service attributes.
Hotels prove the point Nowhere was this observation truer than in the hotels category. For hotels, the brands in the customer loyalty and engagement ranking were:
Luxury hotels: 1. Fairmont Hotels 2. Ritz-Carlton 3. Inter-Continental
Upscale hotels: 1. Hyatt 2. Marriott 3. Swissotel 4. Hilton 5. Radisson 6. Crowne Plaza 7. Westin 8. Sheraton/Wyndham (tied)
Mid-scale hotels: 1. Comfort Inn 2. Doubletree 3. Best Western/Hampton Inn (tied) 4. Holiday Inn 5. Ramada
Economy hotels: 1. Embassy Suites 2. Day's Inn 3. Travelodge 4. Econo Lodge 5. Motel 6
Drivers of loyalty & engagement According to Passikoff, the four drivers that currently affect the engagement and loyalty of hotel guests most include:
- Size and value;
- Efficient services;
- Excellent staff and maintenance.
Horses for courses "There's a reason that these hotels are segmented," said Passikoff, "And it has less to do with the price of a room for a night, and more how the guest views the category. The order of the drivers shift dependent upon what the guest wants, and which brand they're going to look for to meet, or even exceed, their expectations and desires."
But, of the four loyalty and engagement drivers identified, the one that exerted greater influence in every one of the hotel segments was efficient services.
As Passikoff noted, consumers may be willing to settle for less, but they still expect more and better customer service in the hotels category. Service and customer service elements increased in importance in 54% of the categories: "That's 100% of the categories that have any customer service component at all," Passikoff explained.