#557: Accor Live Limitless: Emotional Connections and Memorable Experiences | Let's Talk Loyalty (2024)

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m Paula Thomas, the founder and CEO of Let’s Talk Loyalty and also now Loyalty TV. Today’s episode is hosted by Carly Neubauer, Co-founder and Director of Elevate Loyalty and Pay2Elevate, an Australian based company specializing in loyalty and incentive services, global rewards and digital payment technology.

If you work in loyalty marketing, you can watch our latest video interviews every Thursday on www.loyalty.tv and of course, you can also listen to Let’s Talk Loyalty every Tuesday, every Wednesday and every Thursday to learn the latest ideas from loyalty experts around the world.

Carly: Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty. My name is Carly Neubauer, and I’m the Co-founder and Director of Elevate Loyalty, a loyalty and incentive services company, specializing in global rewards and digital payment technology.

I’m excited to be introducing Chris Mills, Vice President of Loyalty and Partnerships for Accor across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. With over a decade of experience across loyalty and digital marketing with Accor, Chris has led the team to redevelop and evolve an award winning loyalty program. The Accor Live Limitless program operates in over 40 hotel brands and is leading the way in creating memorable, personalized travel experiences for their members. Please enjoy my conversation with Chris Mills.

Thanks for joining me today, Chris. It’s great time for us to chat about the Accor Live Limitless program. As you’ve recently had some exciting announcements and updates and with a program that’s now in its 30th year, I’m looking forward to hearing about the past, the present, and what can we look forward to from Accor. So welcome.

Chris: Thanks for having me, Carly. Great to be here.

Carly: Very exciting. So first of all, as our guests, we always ask the one very big question, and before we talk about your great program, can you tell us what’s your favorite loyalty program?

Chris: This would literally be the hardest question for me to answer because I feel like I’m a member of pretty much every single program out there. But I think if I had to pick, I’ll pick two. The first will be Everyday Rewards. And I picked that one just because I being in loyalty, feel like I’m pretty savvy as to how they work, but for some reason, I still am just needing to go in and do my boosters every week before I do my shop, see what is going to get me the extra points. And I feel like I’d just be crazy not to do so the fact that they get me opening the app every single week when I’m in Woolies, it just, it does exactly what they’re wanting me to do. So it’s working incredibly well.

And then the other one, which I know everyone probably says it is Qantas, but it’s just the idea of flying out and not getting access to that lounge, it’s just such a nice way to be able to kind of ease the process, especially when you’re traveling for work, it’s not always the most glamorous experience that people think it is. So getting to take a few moments to just relax before you head out on that flight it kind of keeps you motivated to want to make sure that you keep that status in the program as well.

Carly: Yeah, well, both of them, they’re driving the exact behavior they’re after and you’re and you’re a savvy loyalty professional. So if you’re engaged and you’re doing it something’s definitely working for them.

Chris: No, they’re doing an incredible job.

Carly: Great. Thank you. Well, what we do want to talk about today, of course, is your loyalty program, the Accor Live Limitless. So can you just introduce that? Tell us a little bit about the program. How does it work for anyone who may not be aware of it?

Chris: Yeah. First of all, yeah, you, you may see the reference all, which is for Accor Live Limitless. Some people think it’s live. It’s always hard to try to educate people, but it is Accor Live Limitless.

And for us, it’s really about providing a program that can help people to connect to our five and a half thousand hotels around the world. We’ve got like 40 brands, which can be an incredible challenge to try and work through when you’re trying to get people to understand that they’re all connected from an economy hotel, like Ibis all the way through to a really luxury brand like Raffles or Orient Express our program covers the whole breadth of these hotel brands.

So I almost view it as a bit like a department store. It really helps people to connect and understand all of these kind of option so they’ve got to pick from when they’re traveling. But it also helps to plug in all of our restaurants and bars throughout our properties. So the program is really that kind of central point that connects the dots between the many brands and venues that we represent in the program.

And then we’ve got to add onto it, Accor Plus, which is a subscription program, sits somewhat kind of on top, think Amazon and Prime it’s a similar concept and approach which is just in Asia Pacific.

Carly: Excellent. So when you talk about 40 brands that you are trying to run a loyalty program across, and not trying, you are running it, how does that work? Or how do you differentiate? How do you know from an IBIS to the Raffles what the program is doing and how to work with your guests?

Chris: Yeah, look, I’m not going to say it’s an easy, easy task at all, particularly because I think people have this perception that if you’re a customer of a particular brand, that’s all you stay at. But it’s not, it’s not the case. And I think for most people listening, you probably would be able to to feel relevant in that situation where you might be traveling for work and there’s a particular brand you’ll stay at, but when you’re traveling yourself for personal stays, depending on where you’re going and what the plans are.

If you’re going to be out all day exploring, you don’t necessarily need to be staying in a five star hotel with lots of facilities. You may just need a comfortable bed for the night. So what we find is that people’s preferences and the brands that they’re looking for can actually change based on every trip. And so that’s really the importance of our program is making sure that people understand that they’ve got that choice.

So if I’m heading to Tokyo, I may just need to stay in a Mercure, for example, which has got really good quality. You know exactly what you’re getting, but you don’t need all the bells and whistles of a spa, for example, a kind of a resort experience. Whereas if you’re going to the Maldives, for example, suddenly, you’re spending your entire time in the resort and suddenly that’s all that matters in terms of where you want to pick to stay. So for us it’s about making sure that we help our members to understand all of the options they’ve got available but also make sure that we’re providing them kind of content and inspiration of where you can go as well.

Carly: That’s awesome. And you’re right. It’s the type of travel, the type of hotel, what do they need for that particular experience? And then making sure your brand is relevant and your program is then relevant to that particular stay. Can you take us back and tell us a little bit about the evolution of the core program and you’ve got name changes. You’ve been in market now 30 years. So there’s a fair bit that’s happened in this time. Let’s go back to the early days.

Chris: Yeah, so we actually, and loyalty for Accor actually started here, so I’m based in Sydney, it started here in the Pacific, so our subscription program at Accor Plus is celebrating its 30th year this year. Interestingly enough, it started before our free global program began.

So it’s Accor Plus that’s celebrating its 30th year. It started down in Wollongong. It’s running for 30 years and it was ahead of its time in terms of getting somebody to actually subscribe for an annual fee to get access to benefits. And when it started, it was all about being able to get access to food and beverage discounts in our hotels. And then there was the accommodation benefits where you get a free night, you get exclusive discounts to be able to stay in our hotels. It wasn’t until, so that was back in 1994. It wasn’t until 2008 that we actually launched our global program for loyalty with Accor. It was probably quite late for some of those other American chains who started back in the 80s.

And our global program at start called A Club has gone through a couple of rebrands in its time, then became Le Club Accor Hotels. And then most recently at the end of 2019, it became Accor Live Limitless. And the reason for the change was that we were conscious that we had a really great program that engaged frequent travelers, but if you weren’t traveling frequently, it was hard to see the value because if you’re going on one or two family trips a year, you don’t have that many opportunities to earn points and then you don’t have that many opportunities to redeem them.

And so the big challenge we had to overcome and what’s changed as part of our program since then has been making sure that it really is becoming and we call it a lifestyle loyalty program. It’s providing those everyday opportunities to both earn points, but to be able to also use them to make sure that we’re top of mind, we’re engaging our members continuously. And so that was the big change with Accor Live Limitless at the end of 2019.

Probably the worst possible time to be launching a new loyalty brand into the market come January, 2020. I feel like everything came to a grinding halt for a little while there. That really was kind of the driving force behind the change.

And we’ve brought on a lot of new partners since then to make sure that members do see value and can engage in the program. If they’re staying close to home, they don’t have to go anywhere. So that’s been a big part of our change.

Carly: And we’ve talked before as well about the fact that there’s a focus on this every day relevance. Like, how can we be relevant in our members everyday life? And you know, dining is a great example of how people can earn points when they may or may not be staying. So can you tell us a bit more about that one and the focus that you gave that?

Chris: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think something that’s probably a little bit unique to some of the, I guess, the more Western countries, whether it be Australia, the US, the UK and it definitely differs greatly from the likes of the Middle East and Asia, which is in those markets, they love dining in hotels. There’s a strong pull. Everyone’s really keen to go into a hotel. You go to a hotel in the US or in Australia and it’s probably the last place that a local would think to go dine in a restaurant. There’s this kind of unspoken rule that people almost believe you have to be staying in the hotel to use the facilities.

So loyalty is a really critical part for us to make sure that people do feel welcomed, they know that they can come in, experience the different types of cuisines and venues that we have throughout our restaurants. And so it’s been an important part for us to make sure that members then also feel rewarded by being able to not only earn reward points when they dine without or outside of a stay but through our Accor Plus program, be able to enjoy discounts on that dining as well. So it’s been really critical in markets where we know we don’t have the same, I guess, level of interest to get those locals in is to make sure that people are aware of what’s available, but to make them feel comfortable to step in the front door.

Carly: Yeah, and I think when you consider those different markets, there’s so many more, you know, earlier you mentioned you’ve got 40 brands to consider, and now it’s also the market differentiators as well. And what people are comfortable doing in different regions of the world, you’ve got a lot of facets to consider for this particular program.

What about the importance of how to recognize a guest? So with the guests that are staying, and they’re on site. How do you make them feel special? And how does the program then work? Because you can have people staying a night for business, a week for a holiday, different types of travel. How do you make them and recognize them in a loyalty capacity when they’re on site?

Chris: Yeah, it’s one of those things that when you, when you conduct research and you ask a member what matters to them, they’ll say it’s all about getting, whether it be the room upgrade or the late checkout, which absolutely does matter. Don’t get me wrong. We want to make sure that’s being delivered consistently.

But what’s the part that I think sometimes we kind of overlook, if you will, is you can do research and people won’t recognize member recognition as an important point. But we know that in terms of when somebody leaves our hotels, if they haven’t been recognized, if we haven’t acknowledged the fact that you are important to us, we know that you’ve chosen our hotel, particularly as a member of the program. It goes a long way to determine just how satisfied they feel about this day.

And so a big part of what we’re focused on at the moment is making sure that our teams feel confident in having the conversation, making sure that we provide them ways in which they can acknowledge loyalty without it feeling like a script. There’s nothing worse than hearing kind of this scripted line that you hear just constantly. So it’s trying to make sure that people can be authentic in how they reference it. But at the same time, It’s those little touch points that make the biggest difference.

One big thing that I’ve noticed as well is that if you check into a hotel, it’s almost expected that the information is there and somebody’s going to be able to acknowledge that you’re a loyalty member. Where it truly makes a difference is if you’re walking down one of the hallways in our hotels and a housekeeper, acknowledges you, if they know your name, if they thank you for being a loyalty member, it’s that unexpected kind of surprise and delight moment where you just weren’t possibly expecting somebody to know who you are or to know that you’re a loyalty member.

And so there’s a big part of our training with our teams is making sure that they know how to connect with guests during a stay, making sure that they can deliver on that recognition piece. Because we know it goes such a long way in how somebody does feel recognized and feel valued.

Carly: That’s a super, super challenge because the idea that you can be walking down the hall and a staff member can recognize you by face like amazing experience, but I imagine not an easy one to roll out, especially in so many venues. How would you even start with that? How do your teams work with this?

Chris: Yeah, and look, by all means, I’m not suggesting that they can know every guest by name, but it’s more about just that acknowledgement and actually saying hello. Is it a smile? Is it a nod? How’s your day today? Great to see you back again.

One thing that we have got through many of our hotels is we’ve got loyalty key cards to be able to go into the room and that helps to differentiate between a member and a non member. And it’s a small touch, but when you’re sitting in the bar, for example, and you’ve got your kind of key card out on the table, enjoying a drink, it’s just one of those little visual kind of touch points that allow our team to acknowledge that, oh, this person’s an ALL member. I’m able to actually acknowledge that when they’re interacting with them. So it’s a small thing, but it just helps our teams being able to personalize that conversation that little bit more and create that little bit of surprise and delight that you weren’t expecting. But when it does happen, it makes you feel good.

Carly: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, help the team with those visual cues to be able to deliver on this as well. You mentioned a second ago around that emotional response to a question versus the facts. So research, we can ask these questions and someone will say a room upgrade, but in reality, that’s not what they really want to make them feel good or as well as, can you give us any examples of some guests that stayed and had a real personalized experience that may not have been what you tick the box on a research study.

Chris: Yeah. There’s one particular member. I love getting out to meet with our members. The one to one interaction, being able to hear their feedback. One, it not only helps me to understand what we need to do to continuously improve the program, but it also regularly surprises me by some of those little small things that actually have much more of an impact.

So as you say, like personalization, one member, I asked kind of what has been the most memorable experience in our hotels for you. And we’ll talk about kind of personalization and for him, the most important thing, and he’s very high tiered in our program, spends a lot of money with Accor, loves staying with us. Beyond things like upgrades to suites, which he appreciates, but honestly, the one thing that he still talks about to this day to all of his friends is he loves Diet co*ke. He was staying in one of our hotels. The team knew this took down his preference at a past stay in another one of our hotels. And before arrival, they completely overloaded his minibar fridge full of cans of Diet co*ke, just completely chock a block full of cans of Diet co*ke. To this day, he still references that experience as the best thing he’s had, because it just showed that the team took the time to acknowledge who was coming, make sure that they did something that they knew was going to please him. And it was something that he genuinely does love. And so that little thing that just helps him to know that it’s not kind of a sort of process. It’s not something that everyone gets. They took the time out to make sure that they did something purely because they knew it was him who was saying that is what he still raves about.

So it just goes to show that it can be the small things like another hotel, for example Novotel Surfers Paradise. They’ve got a particular guest who loves Baskin Robbins ice cream particular flavor, they’ve asked it previously, and now when he stays, they’ve got that in the freezer, in the minibar, waiting for him. Again, it’s something very small, but it just goes such a long way in being able to personalize that experience.

Carly: It’s the ultimate in personalization really, isn’t it? That’s great. And like I said, it’s not something you’d think to put on a survey necessarily. So that’s not the hard research result you’re going to get, but it’s the staff and the people they’re noticing and, and creating that experience for the members.

Chris: Definitely. Yeah, we’ve got another example where our housekeeping team saw that somebody had some cold and flu medicine just on the desk in the room, some tissues in the bin, could tell that obviously somebody wasn’t feeling the best. So they’d organized when they came back to the hotel to actually have some fresh tea with honey and lemon brought up to the room for them. They didn’t ask for it.

Again, something super small, but it was just picking up on some of those cues. And I think when it’s that surprise and delight, when you haven’t needed to ask for it, and somebody’s proactively seeing that this may help, it just has such a bigger impact. So that’s something that we definitely do try and really stress with our teams when you’ve got the opportunity, feel empowered to be able to deliver on some of these experiences.

Carly: That can be so profound as well. That’s not something that people are going to forget, especially if they’re unwell and, and someone’s taken the time to make that effort. That’s a really profound experience.

Chris: Yeah. Especially when you’re away from home, there’s nothing worse than being away and feeling unwell. So those little moments to try and just make sure that you do feel kind of looked after they go long beyond that stay and it really does start to cement some of that emotional connection.

Carly: Now, aside from personalization, which it sounds like some of these venues are just doing a brilliant job, of course, how else do you measure the program? Like taking a step back from head office level? How do you measure that? And what sort of metrics do you use around your loyalty measurement?

Chris: Yeah, so I think the first for me is really looking at just the actual overall member satisfaction. So looking at how our members are rating their experience, but particularly looking at our members versus those staying with us that aren’t a member.

Because what we’re really wanting to make sure and look for is that the experience is heightened and somebody leaves our hotels feeling much happier because they’re a member of the program. The, what the overall experience is for just anyone else who happens to be staying in one of our hotels. So that’s probably the first point, because for me, no matter what we do, it’s going to be very short lived if we can’t make sure that somebody is checking out, feeling really well taken care of and satisfied based on the experience.

And then the second point in terms of kind of how we measure loyalty is looking at the share that loyalty drives into our business. So if we look at the total room nights and the total revenue, how much of that is our loyalty program actually helping to deliver for our hotels. And that really, we’re constantly looking to grow that, and if we can do so, it shows that we’re doing something right because it means more and more people are wanting to be part of the program and are choosing to book with us through our direct channel which is the overall goal of the program.

Carly: Cool, cool, cool. And one thing we have discussed in the past as well is the types of impacts. So we’ve got the measurement side and how the satisfaction metrics are there and the share of loyalty. But what about impacts and considerations in that regard? So changes to, to data how are you handling that within the program and the business?

Chris: Yeah, we as a European based business in France, we kind of held tightly to a lot of GDPR compliance restrictions. One big piece for us is about the need to make sure that it really, the data, the use of data and the ability for somebody to actually join our program is up to them. So if you checking in one of our hotels and the team invite you to become a member, it truly is just an invitation. They can trigger an email to you. They can trigger a text message to you. You don’t become a member of the program until you as the guest who’s checking in actually then completes the process. And it’s all about making sure that somebody isn’t kind of joining our program that didn’t choose to.

So it really is making sure that I guess the access to the data, but also we’re putting in the control of the actual guest. Do you want to become a member of our program? That puts a lot of additional pressure on the team to be able to communicate the value of why you would want to be a member of ALL when checking into the hotel. But it really is making sure that we’re doing everything we can to control the way in which somebody is being added into our database. And making sure that people aren’t being added to a program that they didn’t choose to be. So for us, it really is about making sure that our teams are clear on how do you talk to the benefits of the program? How do you make sure that a member understand what they’re going to receive and why it’s in their interests to want to join it as well.

Carly: And how long do you, do the, do the prospective members have to agree and accept because obviously that keeping them on the database or not, and that purge that we’ve discussed how long do you have to really create this conversion?

Chris: Yeah, you got 14 days from the time in which you receive that invitation. So the way it works is that we’ll send the invitation, we’ll leave that seven days, and we’ll send a reminder in case. And I’m conscious that if you’re traveling on a holiday, you’re on a work trip, checking into a hotel, it’s probably the last thing you want to be doing at that point. You want to get to your room, you want to put your bags down and relax. But we’ve got 14 days in which that process can happen. And if it doesn’t, it means that then that data is being purged from our system.

So it’s about again, making sure that we’re only collecting the information that somebody wants to provide. And we’re getting rid of information and data when there’s no value or purpose for it. So it’s all about in this day and age, making sure that we’re being, I guess, really responsible in what we do collect and how it’s being used and being really careful, I guess. And then how that information can be used as well.

Carly: And in regards to the venues themselves, are you able to utilize other areas? So I think we’ve talked before about, you know, the in room, whether it’s signage or TV prompts and other areas, because you’ve got a pretty tight turnaround for conversion here. And no doubt staff were great at introducing, but in the times that they might be super busy and it’s a bit of a challenge and they’ve got a lot of people coming in, there’s only so much we can do expect to retain as well.

Chris: Definitely. And I’m conscious that there’s also a lot of people who are coming through our hotel that aren’t staying. So coming back to the point around restaurants and bars as well. So we’ve got a self enroll process where there’s QR codes. And the great thing about COVID is for the markets that hadn’t kind of gotten on board with QR codes.

It’s crazy how a market like Australia, for example, how quickly we went from not using them to suddenly everyone is very familiar, including my parents. Suddenly know how to scan a QR code and exactly how the process works. So I’m having those throughout the hotel to allow someone to be able to join the program as, and when they choose to was really important.

And then we also have another mechanism to invite people to join the program, which is then connecting via wifi in the hotel. So making sure that we’ve got fast free wifi access, but also providing a really easy and simple way for somebody being able to do join on the spot and get access to premium speed wifi as well is just another way that we try to make it as easy as possible for people to be prompted about the benefits, but also to join themselves.

Carly: Very nice. Very nice. And anyone like, obviously from a loyalty perspective, these are all the key touch points. We’re all trying to integrate into programs to give members or prospective members, so many more opportunities to engage, come on board and hopefully continue through.

Now you’ve had a really exciting sort of few weeks and timeframe at the moment as well with some big announcements and new partnerships and our partnerships has been an important part of the Accor program over the term, but more of recent times. Do you want to tell us a little bit about a recent partnership and how things are going?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Look, I mentioned that the rebrand to Accor Live Limitless and really moving the program to being more kind of lifestyle focused. It’s all about making sure that we make it as easy as possible to earn points, but then also to be able to redeem them. And so something that’s just recently gone live is our partnership with veryday rewards.

And the value and the benefit of that partnership is making sure that if you’re not traveling in the near future, you may want to use your all reward points outside of travel. You may not want to use them towards your hotel stay. And we know that a lot of our members do. They love being able to use it as a credit towards their future stays.

But in the scenario that’s not on the kind of the cards for the next few months, allowing members to be able to then transfer their points into everyday rewards. We’re conscious at the moment, there’s a bit of a cost of living kind of crisis. And so just providing more ways to be able to get tangible value from those points, being able to reduce the cost of your grocery bill, or being able to use them towards a shop at Big W for example, we just want to provide as many ways.

For me, it’s really that choice. Making sure that people have as many avenues in which to both earn and redeem points is really critical for us. Yeah, that’s been really exciting for us. It’s been great to see the level of interest and just the excitement off the back of that announcement. And that’s one of many.

We’ve also got a partnership that we’ve just announced with Rakuten in Japan. It’s another example of ways in which you can both transfer your points, but also earn points when when using the platform in Japan. So it’s one of many, and it’s really looking for those kind of everyday opportunities to add value.

Carly: And it’s really bringing that relevance to people’s lives where they can engage in multiple ways and, and be really relevant to them. What I’d love to talk to you about as well, how did you find yourself in loyalty and how did you find yourself in hospitality loyalty? Like let’s go back a bit and tell us a bit about you and your background.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. Hotels was never really on the agenda. I finished school and it was kind of my first job, kind of, as I was in university. It was great because you could work outside of kind of traditional work hours. You can do late nights. It means that you can really maximize the ability to still earn money while studying university, which was great for me. So that was kind of my introduction to hotels and tourism.

During my time doing that while studying marketing. I got to know the team really well. And probably something that can sometimes be overlooked in the tourism industry is just the amount of kind of different career paths that are available. So for me straight out of finishing my degree, literally the day after I graduated I moved straight into a role sales and marketing coordinator at the hotel that I was working at, which was phenomenal to be able to just step straight in. I know that for some people it takes a while to kind of find those opportunities to have built up relationships with our sales and marketing team.

Whilst I was studying, kind of became this seamless transition. And I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve just been able to kind of take further steps. I’ve never been somebody who’s kind of been too planned or structured in what was next. Just open to kind of opportunities. And so it kind of moved through.

I took a step into, I’ve always really enjoyed digital marketing. So I took a step into leading digital marketing for a whole cluster of hotels. Which then led me into kind of a corporate role looking after the region. And then that was kind of like the introduction to loyalty because digital and loyalty just in this day and age are kind of just connected. From a digital perspective, my job was about making sure that we had people wanting to book on our own channels. And the best way to do that is obviously getting people into loyalty, making sure that they see value in the program, vice versa, from a loyalty perspective, digital is just the way in which we communicate.

It’s the way that you engage with your members. It’s the way that you make sure that members understand how they can get the most value out of the program. So we ended up then combining the teams together. And yeah, it’s been over kind of 10 years now that I’ve been looking after loyalty as well as digital marketing.

So that was kind of the initial introduction. But I think there’s always been probably a little bit of a personal passion there with loyalty and just trying to maximize how to get the most out of programs as well.

Carly: And with that sort of background, no doubt you’ve got such a longstanding understanding of how the the hotel system works, those touch points, and, and you’ve come from sort of the ground up to build out the loyalty throughout the actual venues when you’ve seen it from so many facets yourself and being on the ground as well.

Chris: Yeah, which I think. It’s incredibly important when you’re trying to get buy in from a large group of stakeholders and like we have over 300, 000 team members globally. So we’re talking a lot of people that you need to try and influence and seek buy in from. That’s hard to do when you can’t show empathy and you don’t understand what’s involved in it. The daily role. We’ve got people in hotels that they’ve got enough to be focused on, let alone trying to ask them to then make sure that they’re doing their bit to recognize loyalty and to make sure that we’re capturing these personalization and preferences. So you need to show that you understand the challenges of their role, but why it adds value.

And I think probably what’s most exciting to me about loyalty is it allows you to really start to understand the guest or your member. It allows you to capture some of these and it makes it easy for a conversation. If you think about somebody that you have no idea about walking in the front door, it can be a hard conversation initially to try and connect with that person. But with a loyalty program, if you know who they are, where they last stayed at, for example It’s much easier to say, welcome back. How was your recent trip in Singapore, for example. It already gives you those prompts of things to ask and to try to kind of form that connection. So that’s what I love about loyalty is it immediately allows you to kind of better connect with, with your members.

Carly: And also where, where would you like to travel? So you’ve obviously got some experience, you’ve got some insights and inside information as to the best places to stay, of course, but where, where do you travel if it’s just for your personal time? Where’s your favorite place to go?

Chris: Oh, where’s my favorite place? This is almost as hard as my favorite loyalty program. I will. I love going to different places. I’m probably somebody who you’ll never find going back to the exact same place time and time again. I love exploring new places. I think at the moment for me, probably top of the list would be exploring more of Japan. I’ve only done Tokyo and I’m very keen to see much, much more of Japan. But also Croatia. I’ve had some friends that have recently come back from Croatia. I couldn’t stop raving about it. And so suddenly it’s at the top of my list to check out as well.

Carly: No, I totally agree with that one. So if we talk about the industry a little bit as well, we’ve definitely, we’ve covered a lot about your program and your history, but love to talk to you about your opinions and thoughts on the industry too. Anything that you think In the loyalty industry broadly, we’re all doing really, really well. Any game changers and things that you think are impressive at the moment?

Chris: I think what I’ve been probably the most impressed with recently from loyalty programs is it almost used to feel like loyalty was kind of this hidden part of the business. It was never spoken about much of it was always kind of there to tick a box. I think what I’ve seen more recently is that loyalty is really front and center. When you see companies talking about their business performance and what’s driven kind of the results that they’re saying. You normally find that the loyalty program is being called out as one of those kind of performance driving elements of the business, and I think that’s great for us as an industry that it no longer is this just nice to do add on or this nice kind of fluffy communication, but it’s actually making a measurable difference in business performance.

I think it’s allowing us to have a much bigger seat at the table. It’s making sure that we’re being taken seriously in terms of what do we need to, to capture the data, personalize the experience and really make sure that members are seeing value. It wasn’t quite so easy in the past to be able to have those conversations. And I think now that we can show the performance that’s driven off the back of programs I think that’s definitely a win for loyalties and industry more recently.

Carly: Yeah, there’s definitely a number of programs that have stepped up and really shown how loyalty is not only its own divisions, not a line item it grows profitability and it really stands up within a business. And there’s quite a few media examples of the last 12 months that we’ve definitely got some case studies to really drive the industry. Anything that you think needs to improve like room for improvement. Where do we need to sort of take a look at ourselves as loyalty people?

Chris: Yeah. I think probably, I think we’ve come a long way, but I still feel like there’s a long way to go in terms of that personalization piece. And there’s so much data available, but how do you use it in the most kind of useful way to deliver member satisfaction? How do we make sure that we’re communicating in a way that’s adding value? And I know there’s like this old kind of story about Target kind of going almost too personalized to the point that it became a little bit creepy in terms of the information and how they could predict what you’d be interested in buying.

Where’s that line? And how do you make sure that you’re truly adding value? Because I feel like we’re at the point now that everyone noticed data is being collected and there’s almost an expectation that when I receive communication, it should be tailored. You know who I am, you know what I’m expecting, what I’m likely considering.

So as an example, receiving marketing communication to me with female perfume isn’t overly helpful. So how do we make sure that it’s actually being used responsibly and as a member of a program, you feel understood. And I think there’s probably still a lot that we can be doing to improve that, that process.

Carly: And I think the word creepy is exactly right and perfect for this because there’s this fine line of, you know, understand me and cater to me or talk to me about the things that are logical and I’m likely to purchase next or engage with next. But there’s this very fine line between that and getting super creepy about it.

And it’s not, it’s not an easy, an easy task no doubt, but but that’s exactly the right term for it. I believe. Anything that you think, Hey, as, as a loyalty industry, we just really need to stop doing, or we really need to avoid. Not cool guys. Let’s, let’s move away from this.

Chris: For me, it’s over communication. It’s my biggest pet hate. Remarketing, I feel like has gone completely into hyperdrive. If I’ve looked at something on the web, if I’ve decided that I don’t want to purchase it now, great to receive a reminder. Even better, if you give me a little follow up offer to try and convert me, no problems. At the point that I’m receiving five or six communications the following day about a product, you’re now frustrating me and I’m actually starting to actually want to not consider purchasing through you or doing any business with you.

So for me, overcommunication is such a simple element that we can control. And I think we need to do a much better job of just that frequency capping of just constantly a barrage of communication with somebody because there’s nothing more frustrating. And when you’ve got a group of businesses that are all doing it, it just makes you want to unsubscribe from everything at that point. And it’s a disservice to everyone. So for me, that’s probably the thing that’s most frustrating to still see it happening.

Carly: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the, the idea that just bucket loads of emails sent out to the member base, that’s somehow going to be the right solution and just automatically convert without the thought behind.

Chris: Totally.

Carly: Before we do close out today as well, I always like to ask 1 question is what are you most proud of, whether it’s career industry program, but what are you most proud of?

Chris: I am most proud of, it’s probably recently the Asia Pacific Loyalty Awards through the ALA. So Accor Live Limitless one, two of those Asia Pacific Loyalty Awards.

And that isn’t, that isn’t something that I’m proud of in terms of my work or effort on the program. It’s such a great recognition for all of the team who deliver on the program day to day. I’m conscious that I’m probably known by a lot of our hotel team members because I’m constantly communicating the need to deliver on our program and the value of our members to be able to be recognized at an awards night like that as the Best Program in Travel or Experiences.

It’s such a great kind of recognition for the team because they do try so hard to make sure that each and every person who stay with us leave. Really satisfied and happy and hopefully telling their friends and family about what a great program it is. So for me, that’s probably the thing that I’m the most proud of is being able to make sure that they feel like they’re getting recognized for the effort that they’re putting into supporting that program.

Carly: Yeah, and a huge congratulations on the win as well. And for you and for the entire team that obviously participate and support and promote it and deliver those awesome personalized moments as well.

Chris: Thank you.

Carly: And the final question, life and loyalty, what do you know for sure?

Chris: For me, it is really about the fact that loyalty is just much more than just points and benefits. It’s that emotional connection. I think sometimes we can really get caught up in kind of the very functional elements of a loyalty program and making sure that it’s all functioning correctly, which absolutely it needs to, but it’s what you’re doing on top of that to really connect with a member.

What are we doing to make sure they, as I said, feel seen, feel valued. If you don’t get that right, everything else almost ends up being a bit of a waste of time. It’s really making sure that you can establish that emotional connection because that’s what leads people to do things that sometimes can be a little bit irrational.

I’ll give you the example of recently I had to take a flight to Europe. And I ended up going by Helsinki because I was so desperate to make sure that it was with a one world carrier to earn my Qantas points. And in that scenario, I know it absolutely makes no sense whatsoever, but I still did it. So for me, it’s making sure that there’s those elements of just really feeling valued. That keep you coming back and wanting to be a part of the program.

Carly: Well, that’s the perfect wraparound to my first question of which is your favorite loyalty program? Because if that’s not an example of a loyal customer, loyal member, I don’t know what is. I’m going by Helsinki because I have a member. That pretty much sums it up. Thank you for sharing that, Chris. And for anyone listening, how would we connect with you?

Chris: Oh, look, the best way to get in contact with me is probably through LinkedIn. Christopher Mills on LinkedIn. I do apologize if I’m slow to get back to you. I’m not one for kind of constantly checking the direct messages on LinkedIn but definitely the best, best way to get in touch with me.

Carly: Thank you so much for your time today. Thanks for a really great chat. I really appreciate it.

Chris: That was great talking to you too. Thanks, Carly.

Paula: This show is brought to you by the Australian Loyalty Association, the leading organization for loyalty networking and education in the Asia Pacific region.

Their Asia Pacific Loyalty Conference will take place on the 7th and 8th of August this year at the Gold Coast, Australia, with over 350 guests in attendance, including yours truly from Let’s Talk Loyalty. I can’t wait to meet so many loyalty experts from the Asia Pacific region in person. Register now to hear global experts discuss current trends in loyalty marketing. There will be fantastic networking opportunities, hosted drinks and dinners, appointment bookings, competitions, and great prizes to be won.

Visit australianloyaltyassociation.com to find out more.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty. If you’d like us to send you the latest shows each week, simply sign up for the Let’s Talk Loyalty newsletter on letstalkloyalty.com and we’ll send our best episodes straight to your inbox. And don’t forget that you can follow Let’s Talk Loyalty on any of your favorite podcast platforms. And of course, we’d love for you to share your feedback and reviews. Thanks again for supporting the show.

#557: Accor Live Limitless: Emotional Connections and Memorable Experiences | Let's Talk Loyalty (2024)
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