60 Seconds with Omni Hotels Select Guest, Caryn Kboudi

60 Seconds with Omni Hotels Select Guest, Caryn Kboudi

Omni Hotels recently revised the Select Guest program, adding a new Black level elite tier and offering members the option to earn a free night after every 10 nights. We spoke with Caryn Kboudi, vice president of corporate communications, about the revamped program.

InsideFlyer
Why did Omni decide to offer a free night stay after 10 nights?
Caryn Kboudi
This was probably one of the portions of the program where we had a number of guests, as well as companies with whom we have good business travel relationships with, who said our travelers would really like to stay at Omni–but we would love to see some ability to also earn hotel stays. And when we decided to add nights, we decided to make it easy as well, which is why we went with the very simple for every 10 nights you get one night formula. You basically can be on two earning paths. You can be on the miles path or the nights path. And depending on which one you choose, you can earn 500 miles on each of your stays, or the [free] nights. If you are someone like me who is a mileage junkie and have been earning miles and miles, you get to the point where you have so many miles you’d like to earn a different currency. You can’t convert miles to nights, but if you’ve been earning miles, you can choose to earn nights for a while.

IF
Did you consider going to a points-based program?
Kboudi
We certainly had the discussion, but we decided this was a much more viable option and a simpler and easier option for our guests to be able to earn those stays that much faster.

IF
Before making the changes to the program, what types of research did Omni do and what did you find out?
Kboudi
We did some focus groups first and sat down with our guests and with people who were not guests of Omni hotels. We wanted to understand what they were looking for and what was really of value for them. In addition to that, on an ongoing basis we have a guest satisfaction tool that lets us know what kinds of things are working for our guests and maybe not working for guests. Also we talked to a lot of companies that we do business with.

IF
What kind of feedback have you received so far from members about the new program?
Kboudi
We’ve received a lot of very positive feedback, as you would expect. There is some interesting data that really told us we were going in a great direction. Number one is that enrollment is literally off the charts and we enrolled just over 20,000 members in the first 30 days, which is huge. We also looked at our guest satisfaction study, and if you compare the first two weeks of the new program with the same two weeks for the brand with the prior program on a 10-point scale, we saw a .25 percent rise in guest satisfaction. Beyond the anecdotal comments–‘I love the new program, these new things are great’–it’s the data points that tell a revealing story.

IF
Have any members reached the new Black tier yet and why did Omni add a higher level third tier to the program?
Kboudi
We actually brought in about 3,000 members into the Black tier automatically based on their past behavior. We did it because there were those who we really needed to take up another notch in terms of the benefits we were providing. They are so valuable to us and they are big brand advocates. And we love taking care of our guests and hopefully they are sharing their admiration of our brand with others.

IF
New base-level benefits include complimentary pressing, shoe shine and eco-friendly housekeeping options. Why did you choose to add these particular benefits?
Kboudi
Really it came out of the focus groups and current trends. Pressing is certainly one of those moments in the travel experience that can be a little less than fun. Our brand promise is about taking the hassle out of business travel and creating an experience that really allows the guest to have a memorable experience. The process of traveling, going through security, getting on the airplane, is a rigorous and challenging process, even if all is going well. And when people come to the property, we want them to have all of those hassles melt away. And one of those moments that isn’t a melt away moment is when they have to press their shirt or slacks. We iron shirts for our guests so why not offer this service to our Select Guest members on a complimentary basis? And with bottled water, a lot of people feel nickel and dimed sometimes with the cost of water in the guest rooms–so why not give our Select Guest members complimentary bottled water on the first night? We tested eco-friendly options in some of our hotels and guests were favorable to it. I think everyone feels good about environmental stewardship so we gave it to people as an option.

IF
Is there anything else you would like to say about the program?
Kboudi
We really think we’ve created one of the most robust programs out there. You can’t really say who’s got the richest program, but there are a lot of benefits here. At the base level there are 13 benefits, which is really substantial–offers like free WiFi and morning beverage delivery, which is probably the most loved benefit. We’re very excited about how robust the program is and how it is personalized and how it takes all of the hassle away from traveling.

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