The Marketing of Customization: Hilton Hotels
Posted by Becky Carroll on January 12, 2008
The hotel business is extremely competitive. What used to work to keep customers loyal to a hotel is no longer effective. Customers expect more. As Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, stated, “chocolates on the pillow aren’t enough”! (Note, this is also the title of his book on customer experience, reviewed here). So what will make a difference for customers?
Customization based on customer preferences is one way to build customer trust and loyalty. Hilton Hotels has rolled out a few ideas to try and customize its offerings. The one I encountered on my recent holiday stay at a Hilton was the Hilton Breakfast. Breakfast makes up a large percentage of the meals eaten at a hotel, and Hilton seems to be reaching out to its customers to (hopefully) get more of them to eat it there. They started their Hilton Breakfast earlier in 2007 with this premise: “Everyone’s idea of the perfect breakfast is different“. In our room, there was a small marketing brochure which described it this way:
“Simply select the breakfast that’s right for you, and follow the color chosen on the Hilton Breakfast buffet. We’ll do the rest – you’ll find that our buffet offers the widest choice of fresh and premium quality product imaginable.”
The contents of their buffet are color-coded as Low Fat & Low Calorie, Hi-Energy, High Fiber, Low Cholesterol, and Indulgence (which is, actually, everything on the menu). This idea is an interesting one and a way to get customers to self-select their preferences.
Hilton is also using another method to try and customize the hotel experience. I found out about Hilton On Time when I was looking at their promotions page. It is a service that allows Hilton’s loyalty club members to request extra pillows, towels, or even drinks (that one for a fee!) ahead of time so they are in the room on arrival. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience that feature; we booked our room through a Park and Fly website. However, this is a great way to understand your customer’s needs and prepare the room for them. (Note – too bad it is not marketed more effectively, and too bad they charge for some of the requests…)
A better way would be to remember your customer’s needs for next time! When I worked at Peppers and Rogers Group, I used to hear Don Peppers tell a great story about customization and Ritz Carlton hotels. Don loves Diet Coke, and if I remember the story properly, one time when he stayed at a Ritz Carlton, he ordered a Diet Coke from room service. They made a note of his order, and the next time Don stayed there, a Diet Coke was waiting for him in his room.
Organizations that learn about their customers, then use the information they have learned to serve their customers better in the future will be the organizations that win the Customer War. They are Customers Rock! companies. I look forward to sharing more Customers Rock! stories with you, and having you share yours with me, throughout 2008 and beyond.
(Photo credit: ynamuku)