Sunday, January 10, 2010

EveryYou and Customer Reward: When an upgrade is not the right response

My EveryYou concept is about developing specific and targeted recommendations (which can include rewards) of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time. I had a chance this week to experience an example of the deficiency of customer profiling and standard practice and thus a place where a more individualised (EveryYou) approach would have been much better.

I have just bought a house – should be celebrating. But due to a twist of fate and timing I have to spend the next two months in a serviced apartment before I can move into the new house. It is nothing too dramatic but gave me a chance to sample the serviced apartment market. I won’t mention the provider but they very kindly offered me a complementary upgrade to a bigger apartment with a view. Of course I was pleased to accept. Just prior to check-in we settled all the details of the stay including the deposit payment and my confirmation that I would be brining by wife, seven year old and three year old.

On check-in we discovered that the upgraded apartment was much bigger than expected, had great views over the park and had the bonus of a separate study/office. But we had to move out immediately. As large as the apartment was, it was completely unsuitable for children under 12 let alone 7 and 3. Firstly the bedrooms were on two separate floors. Meaning that my wife and I would have to sleep on a different floor to the children – not acceptable when one of the bedrooms is right next to the front door that cannot be locked. Secondly the study/office (on the second floor) had two windows at child accessible height that could easily be opened and pushed outwards. Easily exposing a young curious mind to a ten floor drop and instant death. Either we put the children in a bedroom next a door where the three year old could leave the apartment without us knowing or in a bedroom near a study with easy access to a deadly drop.

When we spoke with the front desk, they could not understand why we wanted to move (clearly not parents) and especially could not understand that we wanted to turn down the upgrade and take a smaller (but safer) apartment. This exposed two things to me. Firstly how “the upgrade” is one of the few (if not the only) pre-check in reward that a hotel/serviced apartment has set for sharing with consumers. Secondly how in the serviced apartment market the staff are not as well prepared as hotel staff for non-standard request.

Under a generalised profiling system of customer rewards, it is clear that the vast majority of customers would love to receive an upgrade. But trusting generalisations and profiling can lead the hotel/apartment sales rep to use it as a reward when deeper analysis would show that other rewards would better impress and therefore make more loyal a customer. If my wife and I were on our own or with adult travelling companions (ie the "weekend holiday away with friends" version of me) then the upgrade would be perfect. But if the accommodation provider had spent the time analysing and using the data they had on me for this trip (ie the "parent" version of me) then they would have determined that the reward I would have been more interested in would be a twin room as the second bedroom or an apartment closer to the swimming pool or free car parking. On another occasion (ie the "business traveller" version of me) it would be free wifi rather than a bigger apartment that would be the perfect reward. Generalised profiling is no match for taking the time to use data provided by customers and technology available to suppliers to target rewards/recommendations suited to not just the individual but the version of the individual that happens to be travelling at the time (EveryYou). Using these techniques would prove to my landlords for the next two months that a upgrade is not always the reward it should be.


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