What Hotel Loyalty Programs Could Learn From Starbucks

Starbucks Gold Card

My Starbucks Gold Card

I am a Starbucks junkie – while I get free coffee in my office, or I could make it at home, I love going to Starbucks for the experience, the strong coffee, the great service, and the decent prices (I usually just get drip coffee, none of the fancy stuff). Starbucks thanks me for my loyalty in turn – I was recently awarded Gold status and got in the mail a shiny gold card from Starbucks.

After seeing all of the cool benefits Starbucks awards there loyal customers, I think the hotel chains could take note. While managing a hotel loyalty program is much more complicated, there are some basic concepts that can be applied to hotels, or any business really:

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Give us a fancy card

The card is by far the coolest part of Starbuck’s program. It looks super cool, and definitely instills the “cool factor” as I bust it out to pay for my coffee. Hotel chains should follow suit – give your members a permanent room key, with their name printed on it, that they can use whenever they stay at your brand (oh and make it gold!). The front desk can simply program it to open your room, but you could also use the key throughout the hotel to unlock certain benefits. Many of the chains do this on a limited scale, but giving your most loyal members a permanent room key card, especially one with some “bling” factor like the Starbucks Gold card, would be a good way to help your frequent guests feel V.I.P., and it would also help hotel staff to quickly identify they are V.I.P. guests too.

Give us a birthday present

Starbucks gives me a free drink on my birthday – what do you give me? How about a free night, on the house? Or at least free dinner? Or breakfast in bed? Acknowledging personal events, such as birthdays and anniversaries, is a great way to connect with your customers.

Give us drink discounts

Chances are, after a long day of business, a nice cold beer at the hotel bar would hit the spot. Hotels seem to know this, because they’ve realized they can charge me $6 for a Coors Light – so overpriced its almost a crime. For your VIP members, allow them to flash their gold card (or whatever fancy card you award them) for discounts at the hotel bar & restaurant, or maybe even a free drink during happy hour. Even if I’m traveling on business, I have a per diem I need to stay within, and ordering $6 beers or $9 glasses of wine makes it very challenging to do so.

Give us free parking

This isn’t really a benefit Starbucks gives to Gold members only, but still – if I’m a loyal guest, don’t charge me $50 per night to park at your hotel! There is nothing worse than having to pay for parking…we don’t want to park a car there anymore than the hotel wants us to park there. Free parking is a great incentive that can help justify the cost of a higher nightly rate – I don’t mind paying a little extra for my stay if I make that back (and more) on the free parking perk.

Give us free WiFi

Hotel chains are getting better about this, but giving you guaranteed free WiFi in all hotels once you hit a certain status would be another nice perk you could replicate from Starbucks.

Give us Starbucks

Because that garbage you give us to brew in our rooms tastes like mud. A little Starbucks would go a long way!

2 Responses to “What Hotel Loyalty Programs Could Learn From Starbucks”

  1. Great post Nick! And I agree, I feel hotel chains and other verticals in general should take note on a few of these things and embrace them.

    When it comes to free WiFi, I’m still in shock on the amount of hotel chains & restaurants that do not offer free WiFi when it is so main stream in our world today. A couple come to my mind right away, Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle – two places I love to eat and most of their locations do not offer free WiFi.

    Again, great post & thoughts!

  2. Thanks! Agreed on the Wi-Fi, I’m sure in a few years it will be everywhere but for now, it really sucks to have to pay for it, or even worse not have it at all!

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