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Kimpton Karma: Good Data Going Full Circle

7-21-2014 5-12-27 PMWhen a person’s actions decide the fate of future existence, we call it Karma. When the sum of a company’s data is used to improve the future existence of both its customers and itself, we can call it Kimpton.

The boutique hotel chain, long known for delivering personalized experiences, has reincarnated its loyalty program, InTouch, to one that better reflects the kinds of relationships it strives for with its guests. The program, introduced July 16, is called Karma.

Specifically, it is Kimpton Karma Rewards, and it is an apt example of the mutual benefits that can be derived from using data smartly and responsibly. After surveying its loyalty members two years ago, Kimpton found they put a higher value on experiences, such as its morning coffees, its daily hosted wine hours when guests gather to try new wines, and the ability to travel with pets, than on the points or miles they earned through hotel stays. So Kimpton changed its earnings model.

Hotel stays still count, but the greater focus now is on interactions and experiences with the hotel – events that actually reinforce an emotional bond. These activities range from what Kimpton calls “good deeds,” such as conversing with the hotel via social media, to activities it calls “random acts of Kimpton” – dining at a Kimpton restaurant or renting a Kimpton bicycle.

The more guests participate with the hotel, the higher they progress through its tier system, earning access to a wider spectrum of perks.

“We have to give first in order to get back. We have to be loyal to our guests before we can expect loyalty,” Maggie Lang, senior director of guest marketing at Kimpton, told COLLOQUY.

That said, Lang pointed out there is a payoff to such generosity: “There is definitely a strong revenue strategy behind what we are doing.”

Her example to COLLOQUY involved an ongoing perk called “Raid the Bar,” through which members receive $10 vouchers for use at the mini bar or hotel bar. Members who redeem these vouchers at the hotel bar typically generate $100 in additional spending, 40% north of the average bar bill.

The cherry in that experiential cocktail is the good karma associated with the friends and memories made at the bar. Even better, that good karma actually generates more Karma, because that is the name of the program’s earning currency. And so the cycle continues. Pretty clever.

Key to the program working well is that Kimpton gives each hotel and its employees the freedom to delight members as they see fit. Hotel computer screens reveal, along with guest history, whether a prize is recommended for a past good deed. The employee can use his or her discretion to provide that prize, maybe a room upgrade, based on availability and other factors.

This is a spot-on example of mobilizing data in ways that empower every participant to achieve benefits. In turn, the data itself should improve as a result. Based on what it is doing today, I am encouraged to see what Karma becomes in a few years.

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