Marketers and customer service managers are failing to meet customer expectations when it comes to reward programmes, despite the fact that 74% of travel purchase decisions are sometimes, often or always influenced by available rewards, according to research from Collinson Latitude. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

Three out of five travellers (61%) pay attention to the quality of the loyalty rewards on offer when making travel purchase decisions, the study found. However, travel operators are failing to meet reward expectations with over two thirds (67%) of consumers claiming they are not satisfied with current programmes.

These findings highlight the impact that reward programmes now have on revenue generation and customer retention, with around three quarters of travel customers potentially choosing a competitor if reward programmes are not up to scratch.

The study, entitled 'A Guide to Reward Programmes: The Traveller's Review', questioned 4,000 consumers globally and found that, despite being the first sector to introduce reward programmes in the 1970's, travel is now falling behind other industries when it comes to loyalty rewards. The retail, food & drink and the finance sector all ranked higher than travel in terms of consumer satisfaction and quality of reward programmes.

Combined with the fact that in 74% of cases a rewards programme can be the tipping point between a customer choosing one brand over another this suggests travel companies need to re-think their reward programme strategy.

When members were asked about the areas where travel programmes were falling short, three key areas stood out:

  1. Ease of use
    Nearly two thirds said that reward programmes were overcomplicated (64%) and hard to use (63%);
  2. Relevance and Choice
    More than eight out of ten travellers (86%) said more choice of rewards would help improve their experience;
  3. Service levels
    Nearly seven in ten (69%) said they were unhappy with the level of service offered by their travel loyalty programme of choice.

"Today's connected traveller expects benefits from travel brands that are tailored to their individual needs," said James Berry, e-commerce director for Collinson Latitude. "If the user journey is poor, the transaction is too complicated or they can't find the reward they want, members will rightly look to other suppliers - waiting is not an option and a one size fits all approach doesn't fly anymore."

The study concluded that, by taking a few simple steps to address the issues highlighted, travel companies can improve the value of their reward and redemption programmes, having a big impact on customer satisfaction and retention.

"To genuinely improve the way reward members perceive travel programmes, it's important to understand who customers are and what it is that they are likely to find rewarding. Deeper insights into customer behaviours give travel operators a critical competitive edge," concluded Berry.