Travel rewards programs use incentives to attract and engage customers. The top performing travel rewards programs take it a step further: turning loyal customers into brand advocates. We looked at the most successful travel rewards programs, those that garner both loyalty and advocacy, and found they all share some common characteristics.
Here are 5 common traits of top travel rewards programs:
Ease of participation is two-fold. It includes both earning and redeeming rewards and is one of the most important aspects in evaluating a travel rewards program. Top travel rewards programs make it easy for members to interact with the brand and program (earn) and, most importantly, get rewarded for their loyalty (redeem).
How simple is it for your customers to earn points? Are there multiple ways to earn? It shouldn’t take years for loyal customers to earn a flight or other reward using your program. Is the redemption process seamless and simple? Once a customer has earned enough points to redeem, do your rewards include caveats like flight blackout dates or weekend booking restrictions? These restrictions frustrate customers and hinder engagement and loyalty.
Top performing programs also have a high level of flexibility to ensure members get the experience they really want. A highly flexible program offers various reward options and ancillary products, like airport transfers and hotel stays, flexible redemption and payment methods.
Members who want to experience a little more luxury for less can use their points to offset the cost of renting a convertible instead of a mid-sized sedan or upgrading to a hotel suite. Those who want a big-ticket item like roundtrip international airfare, but don’t have enough points, can use split-pay (pay for their ticket with a combination of rewards points and cash) to take their dream vacation.
3. Diverse rewards and networks
Top programs also offer a diverse rewards portfolio with options tailored to provide the best value for the customer. Airline rewards programs, for example, allow members to earn frequent flyer miles and points they can redeem for a flight. But, the top rewards programs also allow loyal customers to use their points toward booking a hotel or renting a car.
Hotel brands with diverse reward networks are able to offer their members additional rewards like car rentals or adventures (think skydiving) during their stay. Incorporate diverse reward options and price points to ensure your program appeals to various customers’ travel needs and wants.
4. Customer awareness and experience
Customers should be aware of your rewards, networks and redemption options. Top programs also don’t keep loyal customers in the dark when they make major changes to the platform, policies or points system. They openly communicate with customers to ensure less confusion or frustration when program changes are made.
Customers expect excellent experiences, and the top programs provide them. Customer experience teams are focused on high quality service both before and after any transaction. They have efficient and effective communication channels and don’t repeatedly pass customers from one rep to another to answer questions or resolve issues regarding their rewards program.
5. Happy customers and brand advocates
You know your rewards program is doing its job when you’ve created an army of brand advocates. Use your Net Promoter Score as a pulse check on customer advocacy, but look beyond NPS for a broader picture. Visit online forums, travel blogs and social media sites to listen to what customers are saying about your brand and rewards program. Are they recommending the program to a friend or talking about their great travel experience on Facebook?
Candid customer comments are not only a good gauge of advocacy, but also a tool to help brands uncover any trouble spots. Are customers talking about components of the program that are causing friction or frustration? Top travel brands listen to their customers’ feedback – online and off – and use it to make changes that improve program performance and keep customers happy.
Travel experiences are personal, so there is no perfect equation for success. Start by following the lead of top performing travel rewards programs. Tailor your program to deliver rewards that speak to your customers’ interests, satisfy their wants and needs and provide an excellent, memorable travel experience. These are the programs that generate loyal customers and brand advocates – and there’s no better return on investment than that.