At What Price Loyalty? Answers

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At What Price Loyalty?
At What Price Loyalty?

Recap: Ramona Daly was charged with overhauling Haven Hotel Group's outdated and unprofitable customer loyalty program, which had become expensive and unwieldy. She and her team gathered customer feedback and revamped the plan, hosted several focus groups, and made a few tweaks as a result.

Then the unexpected happened: A few vocal customers, who hadn't been involved in the surveys or focus groups, took to social media to voice loudly their displeasure with the new program. The press was all over the kerfuffle. Daly needed to take swift action.

Switching back to the old program wasn't an option. How should Daly handle the disgruntled customers?

Click here to read the complete challenge.

January winner: P.M. Koontz, creative director, Red Dog Media Group

Daly should contact the disgruntled customers and clearly communicate the loyalty program goals, process, and benefits. Engage those customers who are happy with the new loyalty program and involve them in the dialogue. Everyone knows that change is inevitable and this is a position Daly should take in her social media campaign. In addition, she should take the helm of the press and steer it in her direction as she puts a possible spin on the new program extolling the benefits of change.

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.” –President Abraham Lincoln

Other responses

Michael Smith, designer, Tri-Win Digital Print & Mail Services

It looks like Haven Hotel Group and Ramona Daly did the research and created a profitable program that will satisfy the majority of the guests. But with the use of social media, a small number of unhappy vocal people can become a large number of unhappy vocal people quickly, so they can't be ignored. The best option is to use a three-step social media plan to solve the problem caused by the [unhappy] customers.

The first step is to give the disgruntled customers what they really want: a voice.

Set up a Facebook page, Twitter #hashtag, virtual conference, or webinar and invite all the angry customers to join the event and talk directly with Ramona. Let them know that their concerns will be addressed to the Haven Hotel Director of Loyalty personally. Often just letting people know that you're listening will alleviate much of their anger and can keep customers happy.

Step two relies on Ramona actually responding to the customers' issues. Be honest and tell them why decisions were made. If it's not profitable to offer double points anymore, tell them that. You don't need to send them a spreadsheet, but people are smarter than we give them credit for. They also realize that Haven Hotels is a business and needs to be profitable to keep its doors open. You will still get a few of the deal hunters who won't be happy unless everything is free, but most of the people involved in this discussion are reasonable. They'll understand your choices. Some of them will lash out at the deal hunters for being negative and unrealistic, pushing public opinion to favor Haven Hotels.

The third step is listening to the customers' suggestions. If they have valid reasons or ideas, find a way to implement them. Angry customers will be ecstatic if their ideas are put into place, giving them a sense of ownership, and nearly guaranteeing they will shop Haven Hotels first when they need a place to stay. Plus, if you can find a way to implement them through exclusive social media channels, not only do you reach the previously angry customers through a channel you know they prefer, but you can also manage to use social media to solve a problem it was used to create.

Vasilis Stamatakis, CEO, Force Communications

Two actions that I'd suggest to Daly:

1. Calculate the “lost” points and benefits that the disgruntled customers were earning before Daly changed the program and give those customers that value in new points, plus some small extra benefit. It's possible that those customers were unhappy because they were close to being able to redeem points for something of value to them, and now they see that by changing rules, they instead have far to go before they can redeem their points. By giving back benefits to these customers over a specific time frame, they will probably accept the new program.

2. Run a private social media contest, exclusively for Haven Hotel Group customers. Have customers complete the phrase, “I prefer Haven Hotel because _________.” The entry that gains the most likes would win a free weekend, all inclusive, to any of the company's hotels.

Lawrence A. Tillinger, proprietor, sFLi

Ramona should resign, and Haven Hotel Group should leave the driving of customer loyalty to a marketing consultancy. She should have anticipated the displeasure and planned for a response to it, beforehand. If she doesn't [turn in her resignation], if she refuses, she should be pink slipped.

Her replacement, another HHG employee, a marketing consultancy, or a business crisis response team consultancy, should offer to meet, virtually or in person, as is cost-effective, with the disgruntled, vocal few. The team from HHG, the marketing consultancy, or the business crisis response team consultancy should outnumber the kerfuffles—and should bring along jasmine incense to be lit before the discussion, if in person, or pepper spray, just in case the love doesn't work.

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