shutterstock_394181305.jpgThis past month was a great reminder for me about the value of airline loyalty programs because I realized the benefits of my relationships with two airlines via some attractive rewards and perks. However, the travel industry isn’t always proactive when it comes to reminding customers about the value that we receive from our loyalty.

For example, my platinum status with American Airlines has saved me hours upon hours of waiting in the airport for a flight. Thanks to waived stand-by fees and my higher-priority status with the company’s loyalty program, I’m usually able to board earlier flights. I value my time highly, so a quick email from American Airlines reminding me how many times I used this perk and the hours that it saved would really push me to conscientiously work to retain my status next year.

By illustrating the value of their loyalty programs through personalized communications, airlines and hotels surely will increase customer happiness—and revenue. Here’s why: 

  1. The value is reinforced. The lists of perks from airlines and hotels are long, and you tend to forget about at least one of those perks unless someone reminds you (or you lose it). I frequently forget about the bonus points that I get from my airline status. If I forget about the 10,000 extra award miles that I’ve earned from American this year, though, (which ThePointsGuy estimates to be worth at least $100), then it’s a lost opportunity. A similar thing happens in sales compensation: “I forgot I earned that bonus” isn’t an uncommon statement.
  2. Stories stick with us. On a trip to Iceland earlier this year, I stayed at a Hilton property. My travel companion was skeptical about staying at an American hotel brand abroad. However, when we arrived, we were upgraded to a better room—which had an amazing view of the ocean and mountains, and had access to the hotel lounge—all thanks to my status. We often talk about how that upgrade set the tone for an amazing trip. Hilton should be reminding me of that to keep the engaging stories alive in my mind. It’s very similar to communicating the value of trips or prizes, which ZS’s Mike Martin recently blogged about.

Messaging Matters

Here’s what these emails could look like if an airline took this approach and sent personalized emails to customers. We’ve seen that these types of emails have a major impact on the motivation of salespeople when they receive similar messages about their progress toward their goals.

Congratulations on already earning gold status. You’re only a few segments away from retaining the platinum status that you earned in our status-match challenge back in January. You paid $100 to enter the match, and you’ve used many of the features during your 50-plus flights with us this year.

  • You were upgraded to first class more than five times.
  • You took advantage of stand-by seating for an earlier flight 10-plus times this year, saving more than 20 hours in the airport. In addition, all of those stand-by requests came at no charge, which saved you more than $750.
  • On every flight, you earned 60% more miles (15% more than gold status) for a total of 10,000 points, which saves you about $100.
  • Your first bag flew free. You’ve only checked additional bags twice this year, which saved you more than $50.
  • With your access to our platinum-only phone line, which cuts down the time you spend on hold, you’ve saved two hours.

And don’t forget: Your status allows for earlier boarding and preferred seating, allowing you to save time by boarding and deplaning more quickly.

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Getting Started

Educating frequent travelers about the value of being a loyal customer could help ensure that they don’t miss out on earning a valuable perk—and that they become even more brand-loyal. To make the most impact, airlines could make these communications part of a broader effort to reach out to travelers. For example, marketers could collect stories from customers within the loyalty program and share them in an outreach campaign.

Being proactive is a vital component of customer engagement. Making it easy for busy business travelers to take advantage of your company’s offerings will go a long way toward retaining loyal customers.


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Topics: Loyalty Programs, Travel and Transportation, Air Travel, Frequent Flyer, Brian Keating