Intercontinental Hotels Private Customer Communities

Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) have been working with Communispace, the private community company, to build on-going relationships with 300 elite customers, who provide feedback and insights into all things IHG.

The private communities have provided IHG with the opportunity to

  • raise over 3,000 questions within the community
  • provide a platform for peer to peer customer engagement resulting in a further 7,000 questions being asked and answered by the community
  • listen to and learn from the customers
  • provide tactical feedback on campaigns and messaging
  • provide strategic feedback on new product development and customer experience
  • facilitate sharing of member generated content ie photos, views, opinions and questions
  • provided internal education for senior executives as to the value of developing and running hosted customer communities

Following the continued success of the private communities, IHG have developed an external public community called Priority Club Connect, where priority club members can share their photos and travel blogs with other members. This has a growing number of members and participants.

InterContinental Hotels Group: Inside Out: How Private Communities Catalyzed Our Social Media Efforts, presented by Nick Ayres from GasPedal and on Vimeo.

    Supporting Transient Communities with Twitter

    Over recent weeks and months there has been a significant increase in the number of Twitter users and in the various ways individuals and groups are tweeting.  One of the exciting ways to use Twitter is to be able to use the tool to harness knowledge and information from a community, large or small, which forms at a point in time.  For example, at a conference, seminar, exhibition or other educational, business or sporting event.  

    Through using #tags as a means of isolating tweets relating to a specific subject, for example #ecsm was the tag for the social media conference I was a speaker at last week in London and a friend of mine is attending a conference in San Francisco

    The communities which form around these events are transient and temporary, however the #tag allows all attendees to be connected for the duration of the event and provides a way to retain the communication about the event to all ettendees and offers an opportunity for others to access the conversation and also the links to other resources including the speakers, attendees, interested parties following the event and also links shared through twitter on the subject of the conference.

    This ability to harness knowledge and connect with individuals who are interested or participating in a subject matter enables us to filter the noise on the web and enable us to develop our knowledge and understanding of a subject through others with a similar interest.

      Loyalty Programs

      Over the last few days there have been a number of articles about customer loyalty programs and it is an area which I find very interesting for a number of reasons.

      During research I carried out in 2003-04, I found out that loyalty points were the second largest currency behind the US dollar – cannot find the resource – but it is a fact I have held on to for some time.  This along with the customer insight derived through these initiatives makes loyalty programs very interesting.

      Customer insight – this enables organisations to segment their customer base using metrics around value of purchase, frequency of purchase, when they last visited the store, analysis of items in their basket, analysis of items not in their basket.

      All of this data enables a business to target their customer base more effectively and predict with a high level of accuracy the stock levels of products required for each store on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, providing the added benefit of optimising and improving efficiencies in their supply chain. 

      The down side is that loyalty points are held as a long term debt on the balance sheet and the mangers of the problem need to look at effective methods for managing this figure, otherwise it can be detrimental to the organisations business.  For example after sept11, 2001, a couple of airlines had loyalty point debt in excess of US$400m which effectively made them bust – however it also saved them as their credit card partners could not afford this partnership to fail as the value of the transactions using the jointly branded credit card was too big to loose, so they guaranteed the airlines.

      One of the most effective programs is the UK superstore – Tesco – who use their customer data to shorten their supply chain, releasing cash from their held stock figures, they also send out targeted offers to their customer base every quarter and through these mailings flush out their points debt by providing cash value vouchers with a time limited redemption period.

      American Express charge their members to hold points – offsetting the cost of running the program and partner with a number of organisations to create offers to keep their points values down. 

      Therefore, there are a number of benefits for “loyalty point programs” however customers do switch between the brands offering these programs as they see the points based programs as a minor benefit and are likely to hold multiple loyalty cards for multiple supermarkets, multiple airlines, multiple hotel chains – so they do not induce loyalty the way engagement and emotional loyalty do.

      Points based programs should be classed as a payback for obtaining customer insight data which assists a company to plan better and provide more targeted products and services – however they should not be classed as “loyalty programs” as they do not build the same loyalty to a brand that an engagement program will do.

        How engaged are your customers? Adobe/Forrester

        Have just read the “how engaged are your customers?” report from Adobe and Forrester – it is a very interesting document and is a good document for discussion around customer engagement and the changing role of the Information and Technology professionals within organisations.

        From a customer engagement perspective the key takeaways are around the changing nature of an organisations relationship with their customers and the move towards providing them with the means, opportunity and platforms to become more empowered customers. Through empowerment comes a higher level of engagement with an organisation and in turn a stronger loyalty

        Historically many organisations have created customer focus groups who have been involved in many areas of an organisations growth. For example

        • technology companies have customer led user groups who have been involved in the ongoing development of the features and functionality of the technology products
        • consumer product companies have customer focus groups which are used to test new product ideas and refine them before going to market

        Today there are multiple channels which can be used to support customer engagement strategies and create interdependent relationships between an organisation and their customer community. These channels may online, offline be created and maintained by the organisation themselves or may be owned by an independent organisation – the key to is embrace the empowered and engaged customer voice and to learn from the dialogue – whichever platform or channel it is taking place on.