تاثیر سطح لایه در وفاداری نگرشی و رفتاری از اعضای برنامه پاداش هتل
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|27755||2013||10 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Hospitality Management, Volume 34, September 2013, Pages 285–294
The purpose of hotel reward programs is to cultivate customer loyalty, yet most studies on hotel loyalty do not consider reward programs, and even fewer evaluate reward tier. The current study investigated the influence of reward tier on attributes that have been established as key loyalty indicators in the hospitality and marketing literature. A sample of 800 hotel loyalty program members completed an online survey on which they rated their preferred brand on measures of attitudinal loyalty, behavioral intentions, and loyalty behaviors. There were significant differences between tiers on all measures, with the highest scores for elite members, followed by middle and base/entry level members. Effect size measures revealed that emotional commitment and program evaluation were core attributes differentiating tier levels. Behavioral loyalty increased as a function of tier level, with base, middle and elite members spending 53%, 66% and 78% of their hotel nights at a preferred program brand.
Loyalty programs have become a mainstay in the hotel business, and most programs use a tiered reward structure. Each tier offers increasingly desirable benefits and privileges, which are intended to motivate members to reach higher tier levels through increased purchases. Despite the prevalence of reward programs for hotels and other hospitality businesses, research on their effectiveness is limited and inconclusive (McCall and Voorhees, 2010). Even less is known when it comes to the influence of tier level on loyalty. This issue has great practical and financial significance for hotel operators, as documented in the Hotel Group and Loyalty Program Brand Vulnerability Study (cg42, 2012). That study projected a 13% attrition rate for members of the major hotels’ loyalty programs in the subsequent 12 months, and further estimated that the three most vulnerable chains would lose close to $2 billion from those programs. This loss stems primarily from the programs’ most valuable members, the most frequent travelers, who are also likely belong to higher reward tiers (cg42, 2012). While attrition is on the rise, the influence of program membership on hotel choice is increasing (Barsky, 2011). According to that study, 34.5% of members surveyed in 2011 said the loyalty program was their primary reason for hotel choice, up from 32.7% in 2009. However, this growth was not equal across brands, and some even declined over that period (Barsky, 2011). Elite members belong to multiple programs, but tend to maintain alliances with one or two that offer the best benefits (Heney, 2010). Therefore, operators cannot simply assume that a tiered structure will allow them to retain their best customers. The hospitality literature is replete with research on customer loyalty and its antecedents and consequences. That research documents the premise that loyalty is a multidimensional construct, including attitudinal loyalty, behavioral intentions, and actual loyalty behavior (e.g., Baloglu, 2002, Hansen et al., 2010 and Tideswell and Fredline, 2004). Many sophisticated models have been developed to evaluate the relationships among these and other variables such as satisfaction and service quality (e.g., Bowen and Shoemaker, 2003, Han et al., 2011a, Han et al., 2011b, Lee and Back, 2010 and Wilkins et al., 2010). Most of these studies use structural equation modeling, which has become quite popular in hospitality research. Although valuable for understanding the loyalty process, there is a disconnect between academic research and the needs of industry professionals. Reward programs and tiers are the primary mechanism used by hotels and other hospitality businesses to build customer loyalty. With few exceptions, hospitality loyalty research has not considered the role of loyalty program membership, let alone reward tier. The current research applies knowledge from the academic literature by investigating the influence of reward tier on multiple loyalty-related dimensions. The findings can help operators evaluate and improve the effectiveness of reward program structures. Another characteristic of existing loyalty studies is that they often consider behavioral intentions to represent loyalty behavior (e.g., Clemes et al., 2011, Gracia et al., 2011, Hansen et al., 2010, Lee and Back, 2010, Mattila, 2006 and Skogland and Sigauw, 2004). Of course, hotel operators are more concerned with actual behavior. Reward programs typically use stay frequency as the criterion for achieving tier levels, with a certain number of nights or stays required to reach each tier. However, frequency is not loyalty. A guest who takes one trip a year and always stays at the same hotel is more “loyal” than a frequent traveler who stays at many different hotel brands, even though the latter may achieve a higher tier level. Many frequent travelers belong to multiple reward programs, so membership and/or elite status does not prevent defection. In addition, primary members who defect from one program typically shift their alliance to another (cg42, 2012). A better indicator of loyalty is the percentage of the time that a customer chooses a particular brand over others. In the current research, the effect of tier level on behavioral intentions as well as stay frequency and percentage is investigated, extending both academic and practical knowledge. Hospitality is not the only industry for which research on loyalty program effectiveness is equivocal. A recent review of literature covering all industries attributes this to the fact that research has not yet determined what drives loyalty program effectiveness (Dorotic et al., 2011). They note that “prior research largely neglects the simultaneous impact of the LP and customer attitudes on their behavior” (p. 9). The current research begins to fill this gap by making the connection between reward tiers and attitudinal and behavioral loyalty indicators that have been investigated in the hospitality and marketing literature. It adds to the body of knowledge on hospitality loyalty, where research on tier effects is sparse and inconclusive. It aids practitioners by evaluating their assumption that tier levels are effective loyalty building mechanisms.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Hotels use tier level to reward and motivate their best customers, without much insight into their attitudes and intentions. This study investigated the influence of reward tier on attributes that are well documented loyalty indicators, but for the most part have not been linked to reward membership or tier. Support was obtained for all of the hypotheses; that is, elite members had the highest ratings, middle tier members had intermediate ratings, and base tier members had the lowest ratings. However, effect sizes revealed that some of these effects are more meaningful than others. The findings suggest that there are two core attributes of program effectiveness: emotional commitment and reward program evaluation. Of these, program evaluation had the largest effect. This finding suggests that the perceived value of benefits and privileges increases at higher tiers, thus meeting a critical requirement that effective programs must add value (Dowling and Uncles, 1997 and Shoemaker and Lewis, 1999). However, there is a danger of reward program value producing loyalty to the program, but not the brand itself (Hu et al., 2010 and Shoemaker and Lewis, 1999). The emotional commitment results counter this possibility, as it also increased as a function of tier level. The emotional commitment result is consistent with Whyte (2004), who found increasing levels of commitment at each tier of an airline frequent flyer program, and Tanford et al. (2011), who obtain higher emotional commitment among higher tier members of a hotel reward program. As emotional commitment is one of the most established antecedents of hotel loyalty (Bowen and Shoemaker, 2003, Han et al., 2011a, Han et al., 2011b, Mattila, 2006 and Tanford et al., 2011) operators should be encouraged that it is being instilled at higher tier levels. However, emotional commitment was fairly low for base tier members. There is a danger of losing these customers if they possess only “value commitment” (Tanford et al., 2011), which can easily be replicated by competitors. Behavioral loyalty is measured most accurately by considering the percentage of trips, not just trip frequency. Since tier levels are determined by frequency, it is not surprising that number of preferred brand trips had the strongest tier-level effects of any dependent variable. The results showed that all tiers were loyal in their share of trips to an extent, spending more than half their hotel nights at a preferred program hotel. However, elite members reported the highest percentages, followed by middle and base members. Therefore, it appears that loyalty and frequency are joint determinants of tier level. The findings also suggest tier levels do motivate customers to consolidate their business with a single brand. After all, there is nothing to prevent middle and base tier members from spending a greater proportion of their nights/stays at a preferred program brand. Even though they travel less frequently, this could elevate them to the next level. The challenge for hotels is to provide a program that will motivate them to do so. Behavioral intentions and WOM increased as a function of tier level, but effect sizes were weaker than those for program evaluation or behavioral loyalty measures. This suggests that loyalty research using behavioral intentions as the outcome may not fully capture the loyalty process as it relates to reward programs. A model of reward member loyalty might include reward program evaluation and emotional commitment as antecedents, and share of hotel stays as the loyalty behavior measure. 5.1. Tier profiles Base level members could be considered “casual travelers”. They intend to stay at their preferred brand, but this tendency can be overridden by other factors. These could include price or competing reward benefits, since their evaluation of the reward program is only moderately favorable. They lack a strong attachment to their preferred brand and consider the cost of switching to be low, in terms of both convenience and loss of benefits. Even though they trust the brand and will recommend it to others, they present a high risk of defection. This should be a concern to hoteliers, since the largest percentage of reward program members are in the base or entry level. Middle tier members could be named “conventional travelers”. About two-thirds of their trips are with their preferred brand, and they have a moderate amount of emotional attachment to the brand. Reward program benefits are the primary factor keeping them with the brand, as they value those benefits highly, but have fairly low switching costs. A competing brand could steal these customers through a lower price and more attractive benefits. This tier holds great potential for operators, and strategies should be developed to move them to the next level. Elite tier members are the “regular travelers”. They travel frequently and stay at their preferred program brand the vast majority of the time. They possess emotional attachment, a high degree of trust, and are very likely to recommend the brand to others. They value the reward program benefits highly, which translates to higher switching costs than other tiers. These are the most loyal and profitable program members, so care must be taken to provide them with the status and recognition that they have earned. 5.2. Managerial implications This study provides insight into reward tiers that was not previously available. Previous research is inconclusive as to the effectiveness of reward programs and tiers (e.g., Dorotic et al., 2011, Shanshan et al., 2011, Tanford et al., 2011 and Voorhees et al., 2011), calling into question operators’ assumptions to the contrary. The current findings should be encouraging to hoteliers, because they support the objective to produce loyal attitudes and behaviors using tiered reward structures. Reward tiers are based on frequency, but using a percentage measure, the study found that middle and lower tiers have reasonably high loyalty behavior, spending over half their nights in a preferred brand hotel. As these guests travel less frequently, they are not being recognized for their loyalty. Hotels should re-evaluate their formulas for determining tier level, taking into account share of visits. Incentives should be provided to motivate base and middle tiers to consolidate their hotels stays within the brand and move to higher tiers. For example, members could be given temporary elite privileges on their next stay, such as access to the VIP lounge or a suite upgrade, which would motivate them to select that brand next time. Experiencing special treatment not normally provided at their tier level could give them feelings of superiority and status (Drèze and Nunes, 2009), thereby creating aspirations to achieve the next tier. However, it is important not to dilute the elite tier in this process, as this could alienate existing elite members. Hotel marketers should develop ways to build emotional commitment at all tier levels, since even the elite members had only moderately high ratings. This can be done by providing more psychological/emotional rewards (Shoemaker and Lewis, 1999) that are less tangible and can be cost effective even at lower tier levels. One way to do this is by providing awards are customized to meet individual needs and preferences, thereby increasing customer-program fit, which McCall and Voorhees (2010) identified as a way to improve program effectiveness. Perceived program value was the attribute with the strongest effect of tier level, and it can be increased by finding out what constitutes value for each member through survey research or database analysis. Using technology, communications and benefits could be tailored to the needs of each individual guest, thereby increasing perceived value and brand commitment. All three tiers had high ratings on trust and WOM, and middle and elite tiers were not significantly different on these variables. Hotel marketers could capitalize on this tendency to provide favorable recommendations, using social media or online channels. Many travelers use travel reviews when making booking decisions. Hotels should create their own review forum, rather than relying on third party websites such as Tripadvisor®. Starwood Hotels recently implemented an internal review forum, on which they include the customer's tier level in the Starwood Preferred Guest program along with their review. Hotel Facebook pages could be used to build a sense of community, which McCall and Voorhees (2010) suggest is important for loyalty program success. For example, points could be awarded for “liking” the Facebook page or posting comments. 5.3. Limitations and future research This study intentionally used a sample of active loyalty program members who were relatively frequent travelers. Therefore, it does not generalize to all members or all hotel guests. In particular, it is likely that the base tier as a whole has many less active members than those included in the current study, which would differentiate them more strongly from higher tiers. As there is no data available on the target population, it was not possible to compare the sample characteristics to the population. However, even with matching demographics, respondents’ research behavior would be potentially different and therefore not generalizable. This is true for any research study that measures self-reported attitudes and behaviors. Within the sampling frame, rigorous sampling procedures were used, reducing the likelihood of any systematic bias. The sample included members from all major hotel chains, but a large majority (68%) selected either Hilton HHonors or Marriot Rewards as their preferred program. Therefore, the results may not apply to every loyalty program. Future research is needed to establish the generalizability of the findings to other brands and samples. Future research should also investigate the influence of reward tier for other hospitality segments that use a tiered approach, including airlines, casinos, and cruises. The study did not include any financial indicators, which are of utmost important to operators. As suggested by Shanshan et al. (2011) and Voorhees et al. (2011), the profitability of reward programs/tiers is not clearly established. Future research collaborating with one or more hotel companies could be conducted to determine the financial contribution of each reward tier to the business. The influence of tier level on many of the common loyalty indicators was evaluated, and consistent differences were obtained across all measures. However, it was beyond the scope of this study to investigate the process whereby these variables produce loyalty. Future research should investigate whether the loyalty formation process is different at each tier level, and how the process changes as members transition between tiers. This could be done by including the unique indicators from this study (program evaluation, reward tier, share of stays) into structural equation models. As their name implies, the purpose of loyalty programs is to create customer loyalty. It is therefore surprising that much hospitality loyalty research does not consider loyalty programs. This study filled a gap in this body of knowledge by integrating academic and practitioner perspectives through the connection of reward tier with loyalty-related attributes. The findings should be encouraging to operators, since it appears that tier levels are effective in building loyalty and its antecedents. However, there is much more research to be done before the secret to developing a truly effective loyalty program is revealed.