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Branding a Country on the Olympic Stage

Posted by Jen Golden

Fri, Mar 07, 2014

CMB Sochi Olympics 2014I recently traveled to Sochi, Russia for the Winter Olympics (check this off the bucket list!) and after all the media attention focused on Sochi leading up to the games, I was interested to see firsthand if the games were going to be considered a success for Russia or not.Russia went into their Olympic bid with the mindset that they would be showcasing, and essentially re-branding, their image to the world (and turning Sochi into a top tourist destination in the process). Re-branding an entire country is no small feat (and in the west many would argue that Russia faces a particularly difficult battle) and the Olympic stage is indisputably the easiest way to gain national exposure and leverage a positive image.

  • Pre-Olympics: Sochi got off to a bit of a rocky branding start in the media (with security and hotel/lodging concerns taking the spotlight away from the positive aspects of the games) and #SochiFail being the most prominent twitter tag in the weeks leading up to the event. Strolling through the Olympic Park a day before the Opening Ceremonies, many aspects were not yet set-up and ready to go (e.g., the souvenir store, sponsor houses, food stands). Nothing like last minute!

  • Olympic Moment: After the Olympic Ring debacle during the opening ceremonies, Sochi brought its A game. The international media had little to complain about (besides the sunny weather!), as events went off without a hitch and portrayed Russia in a positive light.

  • Post-Olympics: From purely a spectator’s point of view, the games for Russia were a success. The venues were state-of-the-art, Sochi provided wonderful scenery, volunteers were friendly and focus was centered on what mattered: the athletes and bringing the world together for these two weeks. Russia also achieved their ultimate branding goal as a nation: coming out on top of the medal count. But in an illustration of the limits of Olympic spirit, Russia’s current political actions may taint any positive goodwill they gained from Sochi.  

In the wake of the Games, will Sochi become the ultimate tourist destination that Russia hoped for, or will it suffer like other Olympic cities have in the past? Speaking to other spectators who had been to multiple Olympics, many expressed these were the best Olympic Games yet…but only time will tell if that positive experience was felt throughout the world (or if it never made it outside the ring of fans and athletes in Sochi). 

Jen is a Project Manager at CMB. She’ll never forget her Olympic experience and is now preparing herself for PyeongChang 2018.

Topics: travel and hospitality research, brand health and positioning

All Aboard: Why Planning a Cruise is like Planning for Market Research

Posted by Cara Lousararian

Tue, Feb 25, 2014

map with push pins squareIn a few weeks I’ll be taking a cruise to the Caribbean—a cruise that I have spent 9 months planning. Needless to say, I’ve been a little preoccupied making sure everything is in place to ensure a flawless vacation. And as I sorted through all of these details, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between vacation planning and how we at CMB prepare for a smooth, successful research project. You might be thinking “this is a woman who really needs a vacation.” But hear me out.

The first step of vacation planning is to put together a list of possible locations for a trip and select an appropriate timeframe. Planning a successful research study works on the same principles, every project starts with taking the time to define and understand the main decisions that need to be made from the research—we use tools like our Business Decision Worksheet—which directly ties the questionnaire, analysis and reporting to the business decisions, letting us identify and gain consensus on the most pressing decisions, and ensuring the results are actionable.

We also know how critical it is to develop (and stick to) a schedule that aligns with our clients’ needs. One of the first things that we at CMB do at the beginning of each project is put together a schedule outlining each key milestone of the process, all the way up to delivery of the final results. Putting together a detailed schedule helps us align resources and ensure we stay on track to meet our client deadlines. Knowing how much our clients rely on our research makes the scheduling a crucial part of the process and an important key to our success in executing projects.

Once the schedule is set, the project kicks off and the exploratory phase begins. I personally did lots of exploratory research before selecting my specific cruise line, ship, and date. Through this exploratory research, I was able to drill down and identify what aspects were most important in making my decision. Exploratory phases are also crucial for determining what will be most important to measure in the questionnaire and which areas are “nice to haves,” but not necessary to be included for the project.

Exploratory research also helps generate new ideas that may not have been previously considered. Similar to the many resources available for cruise planning (cruise line website, message boards, etc.), exploratory research for a project can span several platforms, including a review of secondary research, conducting in-depth interviews or focus groups, or hosting online discussion boards.

Sometimes the exploratory phase of a project gets less attention/recognition than is deserved because it doesn’t come across as being as “glamorous” as the analysis and insights that will come from the quantitative research. However, all market researchers know that the level of planning can make or break a project. CMB’s focus on planning allows us to try and anticipate what potential issues may come up down the road so that we can troubleshoot effectively and properly set expectations with our clients. Of course just like you can’t predict a rogue wave, there are times when the unexpected happens. When this happens we know we need to remain flexible enough to make course corrections and steer us back to the business decisions that our clients are trying to make.

I know we can only take the analogy so far; when all is said and done, often the only tangible evidence of having been on a vacation are the pictures. While the deliverables we produce for our clients are polished and shiny, they’re hardly the end “goal” of the research. Successful research is useful and used, and that starts well before a questionnaire is designed.

Cara is a Research Manager at CMB. She enjoys spending time with her husband Brett, her dog Nala, and planning her next vacation.

Topics: business decisions, travel and hospitality research, research design

When is a Loyalty Program Member More Trouble than He's Worth?

Posted by Judy Melanson

Tue, Jan 07, 2014

ScaleRecently, the US Supreme Court heard an argument from frequent flyer Binyomin Ginsberg, whose membership in Northwest’s WorldPerks program was revoked, after he complained too often. While the practical and legal questions of enforcing contracts under the specialized application of airline deregulation are interesting, the question for us today is: does loyalty run both ways?  Any customer-facing employee of a loyalty program can probably name a handful of customers who regularly call to complain—about the service, the rewards, the benefits. They, like the people at Northwest/Delta, may feel that some of these customers contact them for the sole purpose of obtaining compensation. Should their frustration with these members lead them to take their points away, or cut them off entirely? 

Let’s look at the case of Binyomin Ginsberg:   

  • He was a very frequent flier – 75+ times/year with top Platinum Elite status.  At $350/flight his annual value to NWA is nearly $30k.

  • In 8 months, he complained 24 times about late and lost luggage and long delays. He didn’t complain to the flight attendants, gate personnel or pilots but instead to top managers in the corporate office of the frequent flier program. "I did exactly what they asked you to do," Ginsberg said in an interview with NPR. "If you have a negative experience, they want you to give them feedback."  And so he did — a lot.

  • Ginsberg says he never asked for anything when logging his complaints; the airline reports he repeatedly asked for compensation, and that they tried to soothe the unhappy flier.  In 2007, Ginsberg was awarded nearly $2k in travel vouchers, 78k bonus miles and $491 for a lost bag. 

  • And then he got the call telling him he was no longer a member of the program, that his miles had been confiscated and he’d been black-listed and would never be able to join the program again. 

  • He was told he complained too much about the service and the airline has ‘total discretion’ in such matters. 

The case will be decided in the spring. In the meantime, here are some questions for you to ponder as you consider how loyal you are to your loyal customers: 

Do you solicit feedback from your members on their experience with your product/service? 

If you do, are you:

  • Making improvements based on the feedback

  • Communicating the improvement you’ve made

  • Responding in a timely fashion to individuals who ask to be contacted

  • Sharing results and verbatim customers comments with senior managers 

Take the case of AeroMexico, whose customer feedback surveys revealed the two biggest pain points impacting loyalty were on-time performance and delay management—hardly atypical for an airline, but the survey also revealed customers felt the airline’s staff lacked empathy in communicating delays. To fix this problem, the airline’s customer experience team recruited key executives to personally call customers who have experienced delays—the executives are coached to resolve issues and listen to the customer. And according to AeroMexico’s VP of Customer Experience, Eduardo Piquant, the innovative program has been a success: “We always start with an apology for the delay and then ask for feedback about what we can do better. In the beginning, people don’t believe it is the CEO or CFO or other senior executive calling. But when they realize this is a true company-wide project, the results are remarkable. And what we’ve found is simple: Customers just want to be heard.”  The airline estimates this approach has resulted in a win back of more than 3000 customers. 

Do you have a clear policy in place for compensating members for a bad experience?

For many companies, continuously improving quality standards and keeping customers satisfied are the key goals to maintaining a competitive position in the marketplace. But these intangible goals often can be difficult to achieve in practice and occasionally – for reasons within and outside your control – customers will have a bad experience.  And in the world of Trip Advisor and Facebook, these bad experiences and your corporate reactions to those experiences will be widely shared and will influence the decisions of other prospective guests. 

Assuming the corporate decision on compensation has been made and is appropriate, the actions associated with dealing with disappointed members (whether you compensate them or not) are the same:  

  • Express gratefulness for their business

  • Listen to complaints with empathy

  • Clearly and consistently present the information on compensation policy

  • Track the behavior of guests “post-interaction”– do they continue to spend (as they did prior to the problem)?  Or has the problem (and your recovery efforts) caused them to take their business elsewhere?

A compensation policy doesn’t get much clearer than Hampton Inn hotel’s 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. While the idea of a “No questions asked 100% guarantee” might sound outlandish, the policy has been a success since it was implemented nearly 25 years ago.  Years ago, Phil Cordell, the senior VP of Brand Management at the hotel chain described the success of the program: “...Compared to the more than $6 million in free rooms we’ve given away over the past decade due to invoking the Guarantee, we have been able to track more than $41 million in repeat business, a nearly seven-fold return. But more than just dollars and cents, we’ve converted unhappy guests into satisfied customers across the country, loyal to the Hampton Inn brand.”

Are you doing all you can to take care of your highest value customers?

One of the primary benefits of a loyalty program is the ability to track each customer’s spend so you can identify your most valuable customers. Calculating the percent of corporate revenue obtained from each membership tier puts their value in perspective. While every customer is important, from a revenue perspective, some customers are clearly more important.

If your loyalty program has tiers:

  • Ensure your compensation policy recognizes and reflects the unique value associated with your top tier guests. Create an elite group of customer service reps to deal with your top tier guests and their challenges. 

  • Conduct research to determine the share of wallet you get from members, and how much they spend with competitors. Ask questions to examine which competitors they use–for which occasions and why–to set strategies to concentrate their spend, and further build their value with your firm. 

  • Closely examine the behavior of your top tier members to see if it’s time to develop a super-elite level. You may find a sizable group of customers who max out on your program, and then move their business to your competitor. 

Caesars Entertainments’ Total Rewards program, the largest casino rewards program in the world, has 4 distinct tiers. The value of a member at each tier is carefully calculated, and rewards and service aligned with value, this insight leads to smoother operations, better front-line service, and differentiated pricing. Joshua Kanter, Senior Vice President, Revenue Acceleration and Total Rewards, reports: “We have a ‘differentiated service model’ that’s keyed off of Total Rewards tiers. We strive to provide a great experience to every guest, including our entry-level Gold members but we also have special hotel check-in areas, shorter lines and exclusive lounges for our Diamond and Seven Stars members. And our VIP-focused organization engages with our most high-value customers individually. When a guest presents their card, every member of our front-line staff responds immediately with the level of service appropriate to the tier.”

So, can I imagine a customer who was so much trouble that he or she needed to be kicked out of their loyalty program? Sure, but the crimes committed would have to be much more egregious than too many complaints. Your loyal customers have made a commitment to you, they’ve shared their information with you, they’ve chosen you when it might have been easier to go with a competitor, and many have advocated for you with their colleagues, friends and family: doesn’t that deserve some loyalty in return?

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel & Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with her clients. She's the mom of two college students and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC

Topics: travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty

All You Need is You: Customer Experience & the Promise of Biometrics

Posted by Lynne Castronuovo

Tue, Aug 13, 2013

Goodbye, plastic hotel room key. So long, wallet. Farewell camera. These days you don’t need any of the above to unlock a hotel room, buy a mojito or snap a vacation photo.  All you need is, well — you. Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Just Tap Here,” The New York Times

biometricsThat quote, from an article in the NY Times’ Travel section, hit me like a wave. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve managed to lose a hotel key card, leave my cell phone at the office before going on a business trip (after carefully placing it where I would see it before dashing to the airport), lose my office and son’s daycare key cards, drop my American Express card somewhere during a 3-mile run, leave my reusable coffee cup next to the register at my local Trader Joe’s, and lose my sunglasses. It’s painfully obvious why this article, on the wonders of biometrics, hit so close to home.Biometrics have come a long way since the retinal scans featured in the old Bond and Batman movies. Now you can do more than imagine scanning your fingers to open the door, or make a purchase; hotels can use infrared signals as a virtual “Do not Enter” sign, detecting body heat and ensuring housekeeping staff doesn’t knock or barge in.

While I look at technology as enabling convenience, others just see more evidence of Big Brother penetrating our lives—all that data needs to live somewhere and that makes many people uneasy. Of course, you could make the argument that the NSA is already collecting vast amounts of data tracking our every move; we may as well use it to our advantage by gaining something out of this sharing.  As Zachary Karabell notes in a recent article in The Atlantic:

…for all of the legitimate concerns about government intrusions on personal privacy, Americans today -- along with many people worldwide -- surrender vast amounts of personal information to companies and seem quite prepared to surrender even more if it adds to the enjoyment and reduces the friction of myriad transactions that are part of everyday life.

With that quote in mind, I thought about how my clients can leverage this technology to deliver a better experience to their guests (while decreasing their operating costs, and gain repeat business and free marketing through advocacy).  Our work in the cruise industry, as well as the JD Power 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report, reveals that the embarkation and debarkation process are very important in driving guest satisfaction. Think about how much more quickly those lines would move if an iris and/or fingerprint scan were all it took to board the ship?  Guests get where they want to be more quickly and cruise lines need fewer embark and debark crew members to manage the process.

Onboard photography is another area that frustrates guests (and represents lost revenue) when they don’t have an adequate number of photos from which to choose. Facial recognition technology that enables onboard photographers to group every candid picture they take, so passengers can easily browse, would solve that problem.

For cruises attracting a mix of guests from all over the world, using fingertips as a purchase trigger rather than cash or credit cards would also help improve the onboard shopping experience for those guests who do not hold currency in the denomination used on the ship and/or who are not fluent in the primary language spoken onboard.

New tools and emerging technologies offer myriad opportunities to improve the customer experience. Biometrics and mobile tracking are giving brick and mortar businesses the opportunity to catch up with their online counterparts. But there’s a real trade-off here—if customers are going to take that leap of faith it needs to be worth it. What do you think?

Lynne is Research Director of CMB’s Retail and Travel practice; she has not lost one personal object since June. She would like to thank the The London Hotel NYC for getting her back in her room quickly (after verifying her identity), Judy Melanson for letting her use her phone to stay in touch with her family while traveling and Sean Kearney for dropping off her phone at home so it would be there when she returned, AmEx for getting sending a replacement card within 24 hours and Trader Joe’s for maintaining a Lost & Found. 

Royal Caribbean Case StudyLearn how we help Royal Caribbean measure guest experience and improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Topics: technology research, big data, mobile, travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty

Tauck Creates a New Type of Travel Experience

Posted by Judy Melanson

Wed, Jul 17, 2013

Originally published in Loyalty360

CMB Focused InnovationInnovating and successfully launching new products, be they loyalty programs or sneakers, is a difficult job requiring significant investment and navigating initiative-sinking risks.  Compounding the problem, for many firms, the innovation process itself is poorly-defined and unfocused—a great idea can morph into a poorly conceived solution or fail at execution.mproving your chance of success requires a focused innovation process—a structured process where you apply the “right method” to the “right questions;” pursuing innovation within constraints, and focusing on untapped market opportunities.

We recently presented a case study of focused innovation in action at the Front End of Innovation conference.  The case study highlights a project with Tauck Worldwide; in partnership with our sister company at the South Street Strategy Group.

Tauck is a travel industry leader; for nearly 100 years, it has focused on providing high value guided tours for its highly satisfied customers. But Tauck recognized some challenges to their future success—the erosion of the guided travel industry and an aging of customer base. They needed to create a new kind of travel experience to meet the needs of affluent Baby Boomers, a population extremely comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own.  In partnership with South Street Strategy Group, our Focused Innovation process involved:

1. Identifying the primary goal, opportunity or business challenge, and constraints: We started by exploring the business context through internal ideation, interviews, and workshops with executives and senior managers. This step helped us answer questions and identify constraints, including the need to:

·       Leverage Tauck’s core competencies

·       Design a new product, addressing unmet needs

·       Hit sales goal of $M in X time period by attracting new customers

2. Investigating the opportunity using multiple methods:  We collected insights from different people (e.g., travel agents, call center reps, potential customers) and information sources to uncover customer needs and preferences. We segmented the Boomer market by travel preferences and conducted in-depth qualitative research to identify the target market and flesh out the desired experience for different types of vacations. The key output was a ranking of travel concepts on key criteria, and an initial read on the market opportunity.

3. Validate and optimize:  So we had some great ideas for new trips and a new market to tackle, but we needed more detail to actually build out the product. We used a Discrete Choice model, to simulate market demand for various product alternatives and prices. This information guided product design and pricing. A critical piece of this stage is emulating real world choices—a trip can sound appealing, but at this stage we want to know who would buy, if they are really interested, and how their interest changes by price.

4. Implementation and go to market: With the concept validated, the Tauck team needed to build out the trips, contract with hotels, and identify top events and attractions for multiple locations. The comprehensive understanding of their target market also guided their decisions, including how to brand the products, establish relevant partnerships, and reach out to potential customers using traditional channels as well as online and social media. Although it’s often glossed over, this critical go-to-market planning stage can mean the difference between success and failure.

culturiousThe result of this focused approach? Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line, on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active Baby Boomers with an interest in physically challenging, culturally engaging travel. Culturious has consistently received “exceptional” guest satisfaction scores and won the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

Focusing innovation on the end-goal and working within constraints enabled Tauck to quickly launch a successful innovative product. Leveraging their existing competencies to address unmet needs in the Affluent Boomer marketplace enabled them to hit sales goals in Year 1.   

So, what are you waiting for?  Consider your challenge, identify your constraints, and get focused on your Focused Innovation process!

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel & Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with her clients. She's the mom of two teens and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC 

Innovating and successfully launching new products –be they loyalty programs or sneakers – is a difficult job requiring significant investment and navigating initiative-sinking risks.  Compounding the problem, for many firms, the innovation process itself is poorly -defined and unfocused—a great idea can morph into a poorly conceived solution or fails at execution.

Improving your chance of success requires a focused innovation process—a structured process where you apply the “right method” to the “right questions”; pursuing innovation within constraints, and focusing on untapped market opportunities.

We recently presented a case study of focused innovation in action at the Front End of Innovation conference.  The case study highlights a project with Tauck Worldwide; in partnership with our sister company the South Street Strategy Group.

Tauck is a travel industry leader; for nearly 100 years, it has focused on providing high value guided tours for its highly satisfied customers. But Tauck recognized some challenges to their future success—the erosion of the guided travel industry and the aging of their customer base.  They needed to create a new kind of travel experience to meet the needs of affluent Baby Boomers – a population extremely comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own.  In partnership with South Street Strategy Group, our Focused Innovation process involved: 

1.     Identifying the primary goal, opportunity or business challenge – and the constraints we had to work within: We started by exploring the business context, through internal ideation, interviews, and workshops with executives and senior managers, leveraging insight and experience in the market, and researching and assessing the competitive landscape. This step helped us answer questions and identify constraints, including a need to:

·       Leverage Tauck’s core competencies

·       Design a new product, addressing unmet needs

·       Hit sales goal of $M in X time period by attracting new customers
 

2.     Investigating the opportunity using multiple methods:  We collected insights from different people (e.g., travel agents, call center reps, potential customers) and information sources to uncover customer needs and preferences.  We segmented the Boomer market by travel preferences and conducted in-depth qualitative research to identify the target market and flesh out the desired experience for different types of vacations. The key output was a ranking of travel concepts on key criteria, and an initial read on the market opportunity.
 

3.     Validate and optimize:  So we had some great ideas for new trips and a new market to tackle, but more detail was required to actually build out the product.  We used a Discrete Choice model, to simulate market demand for various product alternatives and prices.  This information guided product’s design, pricing, and enabled us to focus on those who are most interested in actually purchasing the product. A critical piece of this stage is emulating real world choices—a trip can sound appealing, but at this stage we want to know who and if they are really interested – and how interest changes by price.
 

4.     Implementation and go to market: With the concept validated, the Tauck team needed to build out the trips –contract with hotels and identify top events and attractions for multiple locations. The comprehensive understanding of their target market also guided their decisions, including how to brand the products, establish relevant partnerships, and reach out to potential customers using traditional channels as well as online and social media. Although it’s often glossed over, this critical go-to-market planning stage can mean the difference between success and failure.

The result of this focused approach? Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line, on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active Baby Boomers with an interest in physically challenging, culturally engaging travel. Culturious has consistently received “exceptional” guest satisfaction scores and won the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

Focusing innovation on the end-goal and working within constraints enabled Tauck to quickly launch a successful innovative product. Leveraging their existing competencies to address unmet needs in the Affluent Boomer marketplace enabled them to hit sales goals in Year 1.     

Top 10 benefits of a focused innovation approach:

1.     Aligns solution/ideation with strategy

2.     Solution is customer centric

3.     Focused on growth markets

4.     Provides flexible framework to drive from insight to action

5.     Enables deep conversations, by function, on goals and insights learned

6.     Adapts to handle “big problems” as well as “ready to test” concepts/ideas

7.     Creates Center of Excellence to facilitate and support efforts in agile manner

8.     Captures learning from each initiative

9.     Facilitates and supports with framework, expert resource and best practices

10.   Provides a governance structure to focus resources, including harnessing power of ideas within the organization

So, what are you waiting for?  Consider your challenge – identify your constraints – and get focused on your focused Innovation process!

- See more at: http://loyalty360.org/loyalty-management/july-2013-online-issue/tauck-creates-a-new-type-of-travel-experience#sthash.gMf5DUVE.dpuf

Innovating and successfully launching new products –be they loyalty programs or sneakers – is a difficult job requiring significant investment and navigating initiative-sinking risks.  Compounding the problem, for many firms, the innovation process itself is poorly -defined and unfocused—a great idea can morph into a poorly conceived solution or fails at execution.

Improving your chance of success requires a focused innovation process—a structured process where you apply the “right method” to the “right questions”; pursuing innovation within constraints, and focusing on untapped market opportunities.

We recently presented a case study of focused innovation in action at the Front End of Innovation conference.  The case study highlights a project with Tauck Worldwide; in partnership with our sister company the South Street Strategy Group.

Tauck is a travel industry leader; for nearly 100 years, it has focused on providing high value guided tours for its highly satisfied customers. But Tauck recognized some challenges to their future success—the erosion of the guided travel industry and the aging of their customer base.  They needed to create a new kind of travel experience to meet the needs of affluent Baby Boomers – a population extremely comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own.  In partnership with South Street Strategy Group, our Focused Innovation process involved: 

1.     Identifying the primary goal, opportunity or business challenge – and the constraints we had to work within: We started by exploring the business context, through internal ideation, interviews, and workshops with executives and senior managers, leveraging insight and experience in the market, and researching and assessing the competitive landscape. This step helped us answer questions and identify constraints, including a need to:

·       Leverage Tauck’s core competencies

·       Design a new product, addressing unmet needs

·       Hit sales goal of $M in X time period by attracting new customers
 

2.     Investigating the opportunity using multiple methods:  We collected insights from different people (e.g., travel agents, call center reps, potential customers) and information sources to uncover customer needs and preferences.  We segmented the Boomer market by travel preferences and conducted in-depth qualitative research to identify the target market and flesh out the desired experience for different types of vacations. The key output was a ranking of travel concepts on key criteria, and an initial read on the market opportunity.
 

3.     Validate and optimize:  So we had some great ideas for new trips and a new market to tackle, but more detail was required to actually build out the product.  We used a Discrete Choice model, to simulate market demand for various product alternatives and prices.  This information guided product’s design, pricing, and enabled us to focus on those who are most interested in actually purchasing the product. A critical piece of this stage is emulating real world choices—a trip can sound appealing, but at this stage we want to know who and if they are really interested – and how interest changes by price.
 

4.     Implementation and go to market: With the concept validated, the Tauck team needed to build out the trips –contract with hotels and identify top events and attractions for multiple locations. The comprehensive understanding of their target market also guided their decisions, including how to brand the products, establish relevant partnerships, and reach out to potential customers using traditional channels as well as online and social media. Although it’s often glossed over, this critical go-to-market planning stage can mean the difference between success and failure.

The result of this focused approach? Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line, on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active Baby Boomers with an interest in physically challenging, culturally engaging travel. Culturious has consistently received “exceptional” guest satisfaction scores and won the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

Focusing innovation on the end-goal and working within constraints enabled Tauck to quickly launch a successful innovative product. Leveraging their existing competencies to address unmet needs in the Affluent Boomer marketplace enabled them to hit sales goals in Year 1.     

Top 10 benefits of a focused innovation approach:

1.     Aligns solution/ideation with strategy

2.     Solution is customer centric

3.     Focused on growth markets

4.     Provides flexible framework to drive from insight to action

5.     Enables deep conversations, by function, on goals and insights learned

6.     Adapts to handle “big problems” as well as “ready to test” concepts/ideas

7.     Creates Center of Excellence to facilitate and support efforts in agile manner

8.     Captures learning from each initiative

9.     Facilitates and supports with framework, expert resource and best practices

10.   Provides a governance structure to focus resources, including harnessing power of ideas within the organization

So, what are you waiting for?  Consider your challenge – identify your constraints – and get focused on your focused Innovation process!

- See more at: http://loyalty360.org/loyalty-management/july-2013-online-issue/tauck-creates-a-new-type-of-travel-experience#sthash.gMf5DUVE.dpuf

Innovating and successfully launching new products –be they loyalty programs or sneakers – is a difficult job requiring significant investment and navigating initiative-sinking risks.  Compounding the problem, for many firms, the innovation process itself is poorly -defined and unfocused—a great idea can morph into a poorly conceived solution or fails at execution.

Improving your chance of success requires a focused innovation process—a structured process where you apply the “right method” to the “right questions”; pursuing innovation within constraints, and focusing on untapped market opportunities.

We recently presented a case study of focused innovation in action at the Front End of Innovation conference.  The case study highlights a project with Tauck Worldwide; in partnership with our sister company the South Street Strategy Group.

Tauck is a travel industry leader; for nearly 100 years, it has focused on providing high value guided tours for its highly satisfied customers. But Tauck recognized some challenges to their future success—the erosion of the guided travel industry and the aging of their customer base.  They needed to create a new kind of travel experience to meet the needs of affluent Baby Boomers – a population extremely comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own.  In partnership with South Street Strategy Group, our Focused Innovation process involved: 

1.     Identifying the primary goal, opportunity or business challenge – and the constraints we had to work within: We started by exploring the business context, through internal ideation, interviews, and workshops with executives and senior managers, leveraging insight and experience in the market, and researching and assessing the competitive landscape. This step helped us answer questions and identify constraints, including a need to:

·       Leverage Tauck’s core competencies

·       Design a new product, addressing unmet needs

·       Hit sales goal of $M in X time period by attracting new customers
 

2.     Investigating the opportunity using multiple methods:  We collected insights from different people (e.g., travel agents, call center reps, potential customers) and information sources to uncover customer needs and preferences.  We segmented the Boomer market by travel preferences and conducted in-depth qualitative research to identify the target market and flesh out the desired experience for different types of vacations. The key output was a ranking of travel concepts on key criteria, and an initial read on the market opportunity.
 

3.     Validate and optimize:  So we had some great ideas for new trips and a new market to tackle, but more detail was required to actually build out the product.  We used a Discrete Choice model, to simulate market demand for various product alternatives and prices.  This information guided product’s design, pricing, and enabled us to focus on those who are most interested in actually purchasing the product. A critical piece of this stage is emulating real world choices—a trip can sound appealing, but at this stage we want to know who and if they are really interested – and how interest changes by price.
 

4.     Implementation and go to market: With the concept validated, the Tauck team needed to build out the trips –contract with hotels and identify top events and attractions for multiple locations. The comprehensive understanding of their target market also guided their decisions, including how to brand the products, establish relevant partnerships, and reach out to potential customers using traditional channels as well as online and social media. Although it’s often glossed over, this critical go-to-market planning stage can mean the difference between success and failure.

The result of this focused approach? Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line, on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active Baby Boomers with an interest in physically challenging, culturally engaging travel. Culturious has consistently received “exceptional” guest satisfaction scores and won the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

Focusing innovation on the end-goal and working within constraints enabled Tauck to quickly launch a successful innovative product. Leveraging their existing competencies to address unmet needs in the Affluent Boomer marketplace enabled them to hit sales goals in Year 1.     

Top 10 benefits of a focused innovation approach:

1.     Aligns solution/ideation with strategy

2.     Solution is customer centric

3.     Focused on growth markets

4.     Provides flexible framework to drive from insight to action

5.     Enables deep conversations, by function, on goals and insights learned

6.     Adapts to handle “big problems” as well as “ready to test” concepts/ideas

7.     Creates Center of Excellence to facilitate and support efforts in agile manner

8.     Captures learning from each initiative

9.     Facilitates and supports with framework, expert resource and best practices

10.   Provides a governance structure to focus resources, including harnessing power of ideas within the organization

So, what are you waiting for?  Consider your challenge – identify your constraints – and get focused on your focused Innovation process!

- See more at: http://loyalty360.org/loyalty-management/july-2013-online-issue/tauck-creates-a-new-type-of-travel-experience#sthash.gMf5DUVE.dpuf

Innovating and successfully launching new products –be they loyalty programs or sneakers – is a difficult job requiring significant investment and navigating initiative-sinking risks.  Compounding the problem, for many firms, the innovation process itself is poorly -defined and unfocused—a great idea can morph into a poorly conceived solution or fails at execution.

Improving your chance of success requires a focused innovation process—a structured process where you apply the “right method” to the “right questions”; pursuing innovation within constraints, and focusing on untapped market opportunities.

We recently presented a case study of focused innovation in action at the Front End of Innovation conference.  The case study highlights a project with Tauck Worldwide; in partnership with our sister company the South Street Strategy Group.

Tauck is a travel industry leader; for nearly 100 years, it has focused on providing high value guided tours for its highly satisfied customers. But Tauck recognized some challenges to their future success—the erosion of the guided travel industry and the aging of their customer base.  They needed to create a new kind of travel experience to meet the needs of affluent Baby Boomers – a population extremely comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own.  In partnership with South Street Strategy Group, our Focused Innovation process involved: 

1.     Identifying the primary goal, opportunity or business challenge – and the constraints we had to work within: We started by exploring the business context, through internal ideation, interviews, and workshops with executives and senior managers, leveraging insight and experience in the market, and researching and assessing the competitive landscape. This step helped us answer questions and identify constraints, including a need to:

·       Leverage Tauck’s core competencies

·       Design a new product, addressing unmet needs

·       Hit sales goal of $M in X time period by attracting new customers
 

2.     Investigating the opportunity using multiple methods:  We collected insights from different people (e.g., travel agents, call center reps, potential customers) and information sources to uncover customer needs and preferences.  We segmented the Boomer market by travel preferences and conducted in-depth qualitative research to identify the target market and flesh out the desired experience for different types of vacations. The key output was a ranking of travel concepts on key criteria, and an initial read on the market opportunity.
 

3.     Validate and optimize:  So we had some great ideas for new trips and a new market to tackle, but more detail was required to actually build out the product.  We used a Discrete Choice model, to simulate market demand for various product alternatives and prices.  This information guided product’s design, pricing, and enabled us to focus on those who are most interested in actually purchasing the product. A critical piece of this stage is emulating real world choices—a trip can sound appealing, but at this stage we want to know who and if they are really interested – and how interest changes by price.
 

4.     Implementation and go to market: With the concept validated, the Tauck team needed to build out the trips –contract with hotels and identify top events and attractions for multiple locations. The comprehensive understanding of their target market also guided their decisions, including how to brand the products, establish relevant partnerships, and reach out to potential customers using traditional channels as well as online and social media. Although it’s often glossed over, this critical go-to-market planning stage can mean the difference between success and failure.

The result of this focused approach? Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line, on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active Baby Boomers with an interest in physically challenging, culturally engaging travel. Culturious has consistently received “exceptional” guest satisfaction scores and won the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

Focusing innovation on the end-goal and working within constraints enabled Tauck to quickly launch a successful innovative product. Leveraging their existing competencies to address unmet needs in the Affluent Boomer marketplace enabled them to hit sales goals in Year 1.     

Top 10 benefits of a focused innovation approach:

1.     Aligns solution/ideation with strategy

2.     Solution is customer centric

3.     Focused on growth markets

4.     Provides flexible framework to drive from insight to action

5.     Enables deep conversations, by function, on goals and insights learned

6.     Adapts to handle “big problems” as well as “ready to test” concepts/ideas

7.     Creates Center of Excellence to facilitate and support efforts in agile manner

8.     Captures learning from each initiative

9.     Facilitates and supports with framework, expert resource and best practices

10.   Provides a governance structure to focus resources, including harnessing power of ideas within the organization

So, what are you waiting for?  Consider your challenge – identify your constraints – and get focused on your focused Innovation process!

- See more at: http://loyalty360.org/loyalty-management/july-2013-online-issue/tauck-creates-a-new-type-of-travel-experience#sthash.gMf5DUVE.dpuf

Innovating and successfully launching new products –be they loyalty programs or sneakers – is a difficult job requiring significant investment and navigating initiative-sinking risks.  Compounding the problem, for many firms, the innovation process itself is poorly -defined and unfocused—a great idea can morph into a poorly conceived solution or fails at execution.

Improving your chance of success requires a focused innovation process—a structured process where you apply the “right method” to the “right questions”; pursuing innovation within constraints, and focusing on untapped market opportunities.

We recently presented a case study of focused innovation in action at the Front End of Innovation conference.  The case study highlights a project with Tauck Worldwide; in partnership with our sister company the South Street Strategy Group.

Tauck is a travel industry leader; for nearly 100 years, it has focused on providing high value guided tours for its highly satisfied customers. But Tauck recognized some challenges to their future success—the erosion of the guided travel industry and the aging of their customer base.  They needed to create a new kind of travel experience to meet the needs of affluent Baby Boomers – a population extremely comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own.  In partnership with South Street Strategy Group, our Focused Innovation process involved: 

1.     Identifying the primary goal, opportunity or business challenge – and the constraints we had to work within: We started by exploring the business context, through internal ideation, interviews, and workshops with executives and senior managers, leveraging insight and experience in the market, and researching and assessing the competitive landscape. This step helped us answer questions and identify constraints, including a need to:

·       Leverage Tauck’s core competencies

·       Design a new product, addressing unmet needs

·       Hit sales goal of $M in X time period by attracting new customers
 

2.     Investigating the opportunity using multiple methods:  We collected insights from different people (e.g., travel agents, call center reps, potential customers) and information sources to uncover customer needs and preferences.  We segmented the Boomer market by travel preferences and conducted in-depth qualitative research to identify the target market and flesh out the desired experience for different types of vacations. The key output was a ranking of travel concepts on key criteria, and an initial read on the market opportunity.
 

3.     Validate and optimize:  So we had some great ideas for new trips and a new market to tackle, but more detail was required to actually build out the product.  We used a Discrete Choice model, to simulate market demand for various product alternatives and prices.  This information guided product’s design, pricing, and enabled us to focus on those who are most interested in actually purchasing the product. A critical piece of this stage is emulating real world choices—a trip can sound appealing, but at this stage we want to know who and if they are really interested – and how interest changes by price.
 

4.     Implementation and go to market: With the concept validated, the Tauck team needed to build out the trips –contract with hotels and identify top events and attractions for multiple locations. The comprehensive understanding of their target market also guided their decisions, including how to brand the products, establish relevant partnerships, and reach out to potential customers using traditional channels as well as online and social media. Although it’s often glossed over, this critical go-to-market planning stage can mean the difference between success and failure.

The result of this focused approach? Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line, on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active Baby Boomers with an interest in physically challenging, culturally engaging travel. Culturious has consistently received “exceptional” guest satisfaction scores and won the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

Focusing innovation on the end-goal and working within constraints enabled Tauck to quickly launch a successful innovative product. Leveraging their existing competencies to address unmet needs in the Affluent Boomer marketplace enabled them to hit sales goals in Year 1.     

Top 10 benefits of a focused innovation approach:

1.     Aligns solution/ideation with strategy

2.     Solution is customer centric

3.     Focused on growth markets

4.     Provides flexible framework to drive from insight to action

5.     Enables deep conversations, by function, on goals and insights learned

6.     Adapts to handle “big problems” as well as “ready to test” concepts/ideas

7.     Creates Center of Excellence to facilitate and support efforts in agile manner

8.     Captures learning from each initiative

9.     Facilitates and supports with framework, expert resource and best practices

10.   Provides a governance structure to focus resources, including harnessing power of ideas within the organization

So, what are you waiting for?  Consider your challenge – identify your constraints – and get focused on your focused Innovation process!

- See more at: http://loyalty360.org/loyalty-management/july-2013-online-issue/tauck-creates-a-new-type-of-travel-experience#sthash.gMf5DUVE.

Innovating and successfully launching new products –be they loyalty programs or sneakers – is a difficult job requiring significant investment and navigating initiative-sinking risks.  Compounding the problem, for many firms, the innovation process itself is poorly -defined and unfocused—a great idea can morph into a poorly conceived solution or fails at execution.

Improving your chance of success requires a focused innovation process—a structured process where you apply the “right method” to the “right questions”; pursuing innovation within constraints, and focusing on untapped market opportunities.

We recently presented a case study of focused innovation in action at the Front End of Innovation conference.  The case study highlights a project with Tauck Worldwide; in partnership with our sister company the South Street Strategy Group.

Tauck is a travel industry leader; for nearly 100 years, it has focused on providing high value guided tours for its highly satisfied customers. But Tauck recognized some challenges to their future success—the erosion of the guided travel industry and the aging of their customer base.  They needed to create a new kind of travel experience to meet the needs of affluent Baby Boomers – a population extremely comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own.  In partnership with South Street Strategy Group, our Focused Innovation process involved: 

1.     Identifying the primary goal, opportunity or business challenge – and the constraints we had to work within: We started by exploring the business context, through internal ideation, interviews, and workshops with executives and senior managers, leveraging insight and experience in the market, and researching and assessing the competitive landscape. This step helped us answer questions and identify constraints, including a need to:

·       Leverage Tauck’s core competencies

·       Design a new product, addressing unmet needs

·       Hit sales goal of $M in X time period by attracting new customers
 

2.     Investigating the opportunity using multiple methods:  We collected insights from different people (e.g., travel agents, call center reps, potential customers) and information sources to uncover customer needs and preferences.  We segmented the Boomer market by travel preferences and conducted in-depth qualitative research to identify the target market and flesh out the desired experience for different types of vacations. The key output was a ranking of travel concepts on key criteria, and an initial read on the market opportunity.
 

3.     Validate and optimize:  So we had some great ideas for new trips and a new market to tackle, but more detail was required to actually build out the product.  We used a Discrete Choice model, to simulate market demand for various product alternatives and prices.  This information guided product’s design, pricing, and enabled us to focus on those who are most interested in actually purchasing the product. A critical piece of this stage is emulating real world choices—a trip can sound appealing, but at this stage we want to know who and if they are really interested – and how interest changes by price.
 

4.     Implementation and go to market: With the concept validated, the Tauck team needed to build out the trips –contract with hotels and identify top events and attractions for multiple locations. The comprehensive understanding of their target market also guided their decisions, including how to brand the products, establish relevant partnerships, and reach out to potential customers using traditional channels as well as online and social media. Although it’s often glossed over, this critical go-to-market planning stage can mean the difference between success and failure.

The result of this focused approach? Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line, on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active Baby Boomers with an interest in physically challenging, culturally engaging travel. Culturious has consistently received “exceptional” guest satisfaction scores and won the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

Focusing innovation on the end-goal and working within constraints enabled Tauck to quickly launch a successful innovative product. Leveraging their existing competencies to address unmet needs in the Affluent Boomer marketplace enabled them to hit sales goals in Year 1.     

Top 10 benefits of a focused innovation approach:

1.     Aligns solution/ideation with strategy

2.     Solution is customer centric

3.     Focused on growth markets

4.     Provides flexible framework to drive from insight to action

5.     Enables deep conversations, by function, on goals and insights learned

6.     Adapts to handle “big problems” as well as “ready to test” concepts/ideas

7.     Creates Center of Excellence to facilitate and support efforts in agile manner

8.     Captures learning from each initiative

9.     Facilitates and supports with framework, expert resource and best practices

10.   Provides a governance structure to focus resources, including harnessing power of ideas within the organization

So, what are you waiting for?  Consider your challenge – identify your constraints – and get focused on your focused Innovation process!

- See more at: http://loyalty360.org/loyalty-management/july-2013-online-issue/tauck-creates-a-new-type-of-travel-experience#sthash.gMf5DUVE.dpuf

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, travel and hospitality research, growth and innovation

Review Censorship Leaves a Bad Taste in Customers' Mouths

Posted by Judy Melanson

Thu, Jun 06, 2013

empty plateThis week, Michael Bauer, a restaurant reviewer in San Francisco, published a letter from a reader about a curious experience a diner had with OpenTable—the popular restaurant reservation and review platform.  It wasn’t a dropped reservation, or glitch in the site, it was something a lot stranger. The letter writer had written a negative, but altogether balanced and reasonable review about an unhygienic dining experience at a popular restaurant, and OpenTable had censored it—in 2013!I’ll admit I’ve heard a few compelling arguments for a moderated/curated review experience, a practiced “Yelper” knows you have to wade through insanely negative, or inordinately positive, reviews to get a real sense of which reviewers to trust. There’s no doubt some filters have appeal, case in point the new app, Find. Eat. Drink., which features reviews exclusively from chefs, bartenders and others in the food industry, not from lowly civilians. But was OpenTable, who responded to Bauer’s questions by saying the review was inappropriate according to their terms of service, out of line? Immersed in the world of Yelp, Trip Advisor, and other sites where the reviews (much less balanced reviews, might I add) flow free, censoring just feels like an anachronism.

OpenTable certainly has every right to moderate reviews as they see fit, but I’d argue they’ve done no one, the restaurant, the customers, nor themselves any favors. For the restaurant, they’ve taken away an opportunity to address a potentially business-altering problem and make it right for the reviewing-customer, who incidentally said the food was quite good. Beyond the reviewing customer, scrubbing the review doesn’t do much for potential customers who could benefit from that information—most of us have learned to filter out the noise of a lone negative review—maybe OpenTable and its restaurant partners need to have a little more faith. And finally, it’s not good for OpenTable, review sites like Yelp, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and countless other platforms let people share their thoughts on businesses with huge audiences. Scrubbing away the negative reviews just negates the experience.

Maybe it’s not just the unnamed restaurant that needs to clean up its act. What do you think?

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel & Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with clients on driving customer loyalty.  She's the mom of two teens and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC

Topics: travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty

Is There an App for That? Mobile Sets the Stage for Guest Loyalty

Posted by Judy Melanson

Wed, May 15, 2013

Originally published in Loyalty360

compassMost travel and hospitality brands are laser-focused on engaging guests while they’re on-property.  And it makes sense, doesn't it? Guests are right there, in reach, interacting in-person with the brand and staff. But the customer’s experience doesn’t begin and end at the door, so how else can travel and hospitality companies engage their leisure customers?  

One idea is to better leverage mobile technology to engage guests, pre-trip. Today, more than half of Americans over 18 own a smartphone, one-in-four own a tablet, and seven-in-ten access social media sites on their mobile device daily.  How do you leverage this platform from the first moment your future guests dream of a trip to when they show up at your front desk?  Here are some ideas to drive engagement in those all-important early stages of the customer journey:Dreaming

The first stage of the travel process involves planting a seed about a travel occasion or destination and encouraging potential travelers to begin daydreaming: get them to think about their upcoming 10th wedding anniversary, remind them they need to plan a summer vacation or encourage them to check an item off their “bucket list.” 

Learn what inspires your guests and then get to work encouraging them to daydream. The greater understanding you have of your customers and the reasons they stay with you for their leisure trips, the more you can do to motivate them to travel –and stay with you instead of someone else.

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Watch the weather: If you’re selling tropical vacations and you see a blizzard hitting the Midwest, create a contest and ask people to upload photos of themselves (using the camera of their smartphone) wearing a sun hat or drinking a tropical drink to your Facebook page.

  • Pin it: Ensure your destination is building traction on global sites (e.g., Pinterest, Wanderfly) where travelers are creating dreams for future trips– and ensure they include your pictures in their dreams. 

  • Drive the next trip: Hotels, tour companies, and cruise lines can create a shopping cart like "wishlist" on their site. Knowing where someone wants to travel, companies can send fun trivia, photos, tips and offers targeted to that person.

Planning

So, now that the traveler is dreaming about taking a vacation, you’ve got to make sure that your mobile strategies help them cut through the clutter and connect with your property.  

Mobile devices are portable, “pocket travel agents,” offering instant access to airfare prices, contact information, flight schedules, and bookings. According to comScore, 37% of US consumers accessed travel sites or apps from their smartphone in July 2012. Activities for the mobile traveler include reading reviews, comparing prices, and booking rooms but there are lots of ways to think about supporting your guest’s planning activities. 

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • It’s always a huge bummer to find out that a must-see restaurant is closed for renovations. When you’re travelling, up to the minute information is one of the most vital things a traveler can have. Help future guests identify activities of interest by encouraging them to download the Mobile City Guide from Trip Advisor. They’re convenient, easily accessible, and most importantly updated in real time. They include reviews, suggested itineraries, and tips all synched with the site’s content. An added bonus? The downloadable walking tours that don’t require an internet connection, because despite the wonders of mobile, we could all do without the roamingJet Blue app charges! 

  • Smartphones and tablets make it a lot easier for travelers to find and plan their trips, but the flip side is that a website not designed for smartphones and tablets, looks out of touch, and more importantly it’s not convenient OR useful. Take a look at Jet Blue’s awesome mobile app. From mobile booking, mobile boarding passes, terminal maps, to a really easy to use interface —Jet Blue’s app doesn’t just meet customers planning needs, it offers flyers things features clients didn’t even know they could live without. 

Booking

So we know connected travelers are using their smartphone to gather travel-related information, and the trends are on the rise for bookings by mobile device. While today, mobile booking might fall behind other activities, you can bet it won’t for long. This is especially true for last-minute bookers—according to a Business Insider report, more 70% of mobile reservations are done within 24 hours of the planned stay.

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • There’s a reason Hilton Hotels is one of the most popular hotels for booking on a tablet. Hilton has had a mobile booking app since 2009. One of the reasons it’s so popular? It loads quickly, it’s easily searchable, and it links to their HHonors rewards program. As busy travelers, looking to book a room in a hurry, synching to rewards reduces a ton of hassle. DoubleTree, a member of the Hilton family, does a terrific job of with their pre-stay out-reach, and it looks great on the phone of course—reminding travelers of the hotel’s address, that they can pre-order amenities, and that a warm chocolate cookie awaits—delightful!

  • If you’ve ever looked on Fab.com, or any of the other dozens (hundreds) of flash-sale sites, you know their appeal—a major discount available for often just a few minutes. Turns out that kind of deal appeals to the spontaneous traveler as well. For example Priceline’s Tonight-Only Deals feature spurred last minute bookings(made after 5pm), for hotels where many rooms might have gone unfilled.

Mobile technology is a revolutionary tool for inspiring, transacting with, and above all engaging your guests with your brand – all before they come through the front door. There are plenty of tools available today – and more coming down the pike – to help you help your guests to have a memorable experience at your property – one they’ll want to rave about to family and friends.

The first steps? Reach out to your customers to find out what inspires them to visit your property – what goals they are trying to achieve. Then find some mobile tools that you can offer to help them achieve their goals when they visit. Don’t wait to build strong engagement with your future guest!

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel & Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with clients on driving customer loyalty.  She's the mom of two teens and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC

Download our latest Consumer Pulse on the Future of Mobile Wallet here.

Check out our infographic on Loyalty and Mobile here.

Topics: mobile, travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty

Adventures in the Front End of Innovation

Posted by Megan McManaman

Thu, May 02, 2013

Next week you'll find us at the Front End of Innovation 2013 sharing how we, along with our partners at South Street Strategy, took a practical, focused, and innovative approach to new product development for Tauck Worldwide. Read a little bit about what we did here:

The Challenge

Tauck Case StudyTauck Worldwide, an industry leader with over 85 years experience in premium guided tours, wanted to create a new travel concept to meet the needs of a population increasingly comfortable with researching, planning, and traveling on their own. Tauck needed innovative thinking to define and build a new type of tour product – one that appealed to next gen customers, conveyed a unique brand identity while standing out from competitors in the crowded travel market space. 

What We Did

CMB and principals from South Street Strategy Group used a multi-method, multi-source approach to:

  • Select top opportunities on which to focus

  • Ideate across functions with executives and senior managers, leveraging insight and experience in the market

  • Research and assess the competitive landscape and baby boomer’s core  travel goals and needs – particularly un-met needs

  • Test alternatives to guide product development, pricing and identify target guests who are most interested in the new product line

  • Identify acquisition targets in the travel industry, new business models, and new product offerings, by leveraging core competencies, that would create significant value for the company and address baby boomer needs

  • Work with the CEO, CFO, and COO and the New Ventures Group to ensure recommendations were aligned with business constraints, addressed operational challenges and met business goals

How It Was Used

Tauck launched the Culturious brand as a totally new product line on time and with unanimous board approval. The new brand, which currently consists of 8 packages and destinations, meets customer needs by offering small-group tours geared toward active baby boomers with an interest in active, culturally engaging travel. The brand has won awards, including the 2010 Innovation prize from the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Partnerships (CQIA).

To learn more about our approach to New Product and Service Development click here.

For more of our case studies click here. 

Topics: South Street Strategy Group, strategy consulting, product development, travel and hospitality research, growth and innovation

Is Your Loyalty Program Supporting Your Loyalty Strategy?

Posted by Judy Melanson

Thu, Mar 07, 2013

Originally Published in Loyalty Management Magazine

Thumbs upRecent articles on the “new economics” of loyalty programs and the choices program managers face may be important to read, but many of them leave me bewildered. These articles warn that in the new loyalty environment, credit card companies will play an increasingly disruptive force as members seek reward currency that offers them more options. They encourage executives to restructure the currency to ensure its dominance, and some authors argue that cash-strapped firms should divest their loyalty programs to generate revenue for the company. 

I agree that if you manage a mature program, with a point or mile-based currency, you need to ensure your program offers a relevant currency with a competitive “earn and burn” structure. This currency and the associated promotions are table-stakes; a requirement for both acquiring and retaining valuable customers. But ask yourself this question: is a loyalty program where your primary focus is on the currency (and its economics) really supporting your customer loyalty strategy? 

In our opinion, real loyalty—the kind that spurs evangelization, incremental trips/purchases, paying a price premium—doesn’t come from delivering points. Your customers don’t buy from you because you give them points. They choose to buy from you because of the distinct value provided by your brand. The key problem with enhanced focus on program currency is that points and miles don’t reflect your brand or its unique value proposition—and won’t engage your passionate customers. 

So how can you ensure that your loyalty program IS supporting your loyalty strategy? 

Relevant communications: Reflect your knowledge of your members’ behavior and preferences in your program communications. I fly out of Boston: why does American Airlines regularly send me promotions on flights out of Chicago? 

Build out ‘soft benefits’ that reflect the brand: Consider why your loyal customers are passionate about your brand—why they choose to spend money with you and not your competitors—and incorporate supporting elements into your program. You can ramp up these “connective tissue” benefits as customer value increases. 

Consider ‘unpublished’ surprise and delights: Instead of revamping the loyalty program and listing all benefits on the web site, invest in delivering valuable customers an item they’d value on a one-time basis. The benefits are clear: you create good will with your most valuable customers. You’re also not raising the bar, adding to the arms race or increasing expectations. And, in today’s connected world, some of these “private gestures” will support positive comments on social-media channels. 

A few brands whose published loyalty programs reflect their brand value and underscore their unique selling proposition:

 

kimpton logo

One hotel chain that excels at the special touches is Kimpton Hotels. The small boutique chain’s unique, fun, and socially conscious brand promise infuses everything, from their rooms to their website, to their loyalty program—InTouch, and their elite loyalty program Inner Circle. Their InTouch program offers traditional perks like free nights, but the preferences of loyalty members also get recognized—the hotels customize amenities (like pillow, newspaper, mini-bar) based on guests’ stated preferences. The rewards are more valuable for the Inner Circle members—those who stay 15 times within a calendar year—they include direct access to the CEO along with the more typical complimentary upgrades. 

 niemenmarcus

While hotels have multiple touch-points for sharing their brand with their guests, retail stores can face more of a challenge. But Neimen Marcus’ five tier InCircle program clearly demonstrates an understanding of why loyalty program members choose to shop with them. The program’s benefits reflect their unique brand proposition and reflect the store’s deep understanding of their target customer —affluent shoppers who value luxury and a high-end shopping experience. Neimen’s rewards include perk cards which can be used for dozens of services including alterations, in store dining, monogramming and shoe repair. Rewards highlight exclusivity as well as the more traditional point based rewards. 

 

Amazon Logo

With truly vast amounts of data, Amazon could be content with offering suggestions based on previously purchased or viewed items—it’s no small thing to show your customers you know what interests them. But Amazon’s rewards program goes beyond the data warehouse, and while Amazon Prime isn’t free, the free or reduced shipping, and access to content, the Kindle lending library, where Kindle owners can borrow and read books for free, are powerful reminders of the value of the brand and strong motivators to encourage frequent shoppers to return again and again.

Judy is VP of CMB's Travel & Entertainment practice and loves collaborating with clients on driving customer loyalty.  She's the mom of two teens and the wife of an oyster farmer. Follow Judy on Twitter at @Judy_LC

Topics: travel and hospitality research, customer experience and loyalty, retail research

When Customer Experience Surveys Attack (or Just Go out of Scope)

Posted by Jeff McKenna

Wed, Jan 30, 2013

Last weekend, my family and I took a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina.  We rented a car and stayed at a hotel.  Within 12 hours of arriving home I received an online survey from each company.  In both cases, the experiences were excellent and I was happy to share the details.  In one case, the survey took me about 1 ½ minutes to complete.  The other one took me about 10 minutes. For the survey that took me 1 ½ minutes, when I reached the end, I thought “Well, they asked about the key aspects of the experience and got what they needed.”  In contrast, by the time I reached the midpoint of the 10 minute survey, I was exhausted and just wanted to end the damn thing – and then when I reached the end, they asked if I wanted to answer more(!?!) questions.

In the 1 ½ minute survey I could clearly see the questions focused solely on the experience and managing the key aspects of the service –they probably have more than enough data to get deep insights since they know who I am, my travel details, and have similar data for the thousands of other travelers who are also rating the experience.

In the 10 minute survey, I could see that the company was asking for details beyond the experience, they were seeking to understand competitive positioning and future intended travel behaviors—all things that are clearly outside the scope of the service experience.  They also asked questions about very detailed aspects of the experience e.g., the mechanical condition of the car and softness of the towels.  It led me to ask: “Really?  You want me to rate this aspect of the service?  Aren’t you guys smart enough to tell these things are up to standard?” 

asleep at deskHere’s an example from another industry: homebuilding.  I’ve seen surveys that ask buyers to rate the window quality in the home.  Why?!?  Shouldn’t the builder know if the windows they are putting into the home are high-grade or low-grade?  Remember, we’re assessing the home purchase experience, NOT homebuyer preferences.  If you’re trying to achieve both in the same research study, you’re going to be (as Mr. Miyagi says) “like the grasshopper in the middle of the road.” 

As researchers and companies asking our valued customers for feedback, we need to be very aware of the unstated agreement for what’s in scope and out of scope for these customer experience surveys.  I’m not opposed to having surveys do “double-duty,” but we should be clear with our customers that we are doing so, AND not kill them with gruelingly long surveys.

Jeff is VP, Market Science Solutions at CMB. He always takes time for a customer experience survey, but keep it short he's very busy, he needs time to blog and occasionally tweet @McKennaJeff.

Royal Caribbean Case StudySee how CMB is helping Royal Caribbean measure guest experience and improve customer satisfaction and retention. Click here.

 

 

 

 

 


Topics: travel and hospitality research, research design