The folks at Kimpton have asked me to withhold the name of their new loyalty program until it’s release next week, and since they are a decent bunch of people I’ll do just that. As many of you know, I selected the Firesky Resort and Spa in Phoenix for our next DO, and was very excited to try a boutique brand that has a stellar reputation.
Kimpton has had a loyalty program in place for some time now, but it was a little childlike in comparison to the competition. With just two tiers, and the top tier including direct telephone access to their CEO, it seemed a little too idealistic in a world that has co-branded cards, quota’d room upgrade vouchers, free wifi for some, and free breakfast for others…
I don’t know a lot about the new program, but I believe it to be a 4 tier program, the other major player with such a system is Hilton, ranging from Blue level (which you get for smiling at them, and includes them not charging your spouse to stay with you… really?) all the way up to Diamond, with free Breakfast and an armed helicopter escort through the city of your choice twice a year (going from memory here, it could actually just be a scene from 24) you can check out the details of the Hhonors program here to confirm that.
Are we going to see a co-branded credit card?
With the maturity of the new loyalty program, it would be anomalous of Kimpton to not partner with a major bank in order to deliver a co-branded card to promote their loyalty program. Barclay could be a strong contender for this slot, since they clearly are chasing after Chase with the Arrival/CSP battle, and they don’t have a strong Hotel partner. Chase has Hyatt, Marriot and Fairmont, Citi has Hilton (as does Amex, but we know that the Hilton’s like to get around) this would be a real win/win combination.
My only worry…
I hate structured loyalty programs. Structure equates to process and a quid pro quo approach to loyalty. As a Diamond with Hilton you ‘deserve’ the breakfast and the upgrade. It is part of the deal… never mind that you might have acquired such status purely through credit card spend. I like people to be valued, and I like employees to be empowered to reward not only loyalty, but impromptu recognition where it is due.
We actually had a bit of an incident with Firesky, the day that I announced the hotel we sold out tickets to the event in under 2 hours, and there was a snafu with our room block for a discounted rate. I tried to resolve it a number of ways, but even as a boutique brand, and before the next bold step for this company, my contacts were somewhat limited by arbitrary procedures.
In the end though, after speaking with about 6 different people via email and phone we got it fixed. I noticed that everyone was working with me to make it right, and trying to work around systems that were in place. Ultimately, empowered individual staff members, from the person cleaning your room, to the CEO on direct dial make the difference in a brand. I had an exceptional experience dealing with a problem at Firesky, and my only worry is that more structure might mean less ability to go the extra mile the way they have done to date. I’d also like to give a special thank you to Jessica, Sarah and Joe at the resort for helping get things on track for what will be a fantastic event in November.
Strangely, I would normally be pissed off at having to talk to so many people to get something fixed, but I could feel their genuine desire to help, and even though it was something that I would rather hadn’t happened, the level of care I received from Kimpton gave me a lot of confidence in them as a company. They certainly realize that every mistake that can happen is an opportunity to show how awesome you can be.
I’m really excited about Firesky, and I’m kinda happy for Kimpton growing up, but maybe the new parent in me would rather they stayed young for longer.