Most of us who travel extensively for a living have a few customer loyalty programs that they are very…well, “loyal” towards. My air travel is almost exclusively done on Continental Airlines (in the process of becoming United Airlines); I rent my cars from Avis (full disclosure: Mindtree has worked with Avis since March 2000); and I will go out of my way to stay at a Marriott-branded hotel. The reasons for this loyalty varies, from the loyalty program perks I receive, to the special treatment we experience using their product and services.
The other day I was trying to recall where all this loyalty originated. It struck me that in all my years of travel, I had never met the CEOs, or even VP-level executives of any of these organizations I go out of my way to give business. In my 801,995 lifetime miles flown on Continental (as of October 20, 2010), the Company has entrusted their brand experience for me to be established through their ticketing agents, baggage handlers, gate and flight attendants. Occasionally, a pilot will say good bye to me as my plane is unloading…but that is also rare. Presumably, other Platinum OnePass members have also experienced the same treatment.
With Marriott, the closest I have ever come to “meeting” Chairman and CEO Bill Marriott is through his blog entitled “Marriott on the Move.” Instead, the Company entrusts that I will continue to keep reserving and adding to my 234 lifetime night stays through the (usually) diligent work of their concierge, bell captains, front desk attendants, housekeeping and the occasional 800# customer service rep that I speak with. I often see the “Welcome” signs from the Hotel District Manager in the lobby, but I don’t ever recall physically seeing him/her in the hotel lobby between 8-10 AM and 3-5PM, typically the peak time for hotel guests to be checking in or out.
In addition to the social media efforts underway at iconic brands around the world, does my suggested level of senior management physical engagement also make sense? Or is it better to entrust critical brand development experiences in the hands of men and women who (often) have the least amount of experience….and emotional connection to their organizations?