I used to be quite a fan of the Intercontinental Hotel Group and their Priority Club loyalty program. I joined the program in 2006 when I spent a couple months staying at a Holiday Inn in Waldorf, Germany. Why do loyalty programs exist? To encourage clients to choose their brand, over and over again (when similar alternatives exist) in reward for perks or free nights once a certain amount has been spent on that brand. Why did I choose Priority Club? Because they offered points for life? This was an excellent incentive which I also appreciate from the British Airways Executive Club program.
I had a whopping 149 591 points in my account which I had accumulated over the years. On some occasions I would spend cash on hotel stays (instead of spending points) to earn more as I would like to increase my balance or reach the next tier. From my perspective these points represented an investment. An investment into decent shelter in a number of properties worldwide for a rainy day or a joyful experience.
A step back
All was well until the Priority Club changed to the IHG Rewards Club and new terms and conditions were launched in April 2015 with a little clause that hadn’t been effectively communicated….
Those points now expire!
The differentiating factor between IHG Rewards Club and other hotel loyalty programs would disappear, but to take it a step further IHG Rewards Club wouldn’t go out of their way to advise members about that little, not so insignificant change.
If you look at articles published by other popular travel writers you’d see that these loyalty point gurus didn’t know about it at the time either:
I have been travel writing since early 2013 (over 150 articles published to date) on general matters, trip experiences, loyalty, tips and reviews. Even I didn’t know about this. Who did? The general public who aren’t involved in the travel industry?
In hindsight from the brands perspective I can understand why they wouldn’t want to communicate it widely. Why would they want to announce to the world that a major benefit would disappear?
149 591 to zero. Zero.
That’s what happened. After 12 months of inactivity on my points for life account they assumed me dead and reset my account balance without notifying me. The social team and loyalty “customer service” informed that they send email notifications 90, 60 and 30 days before expiry. Emails from IHG go to my Gmail account and I never delete emails from there. I checked…. there was nothing, no notifications.
Only President Zuma of South Africa would be happy to see a single digit balance:
IHG staff could have picked up the phone and called. Sent me a letter in the post. Sent me an sms or even a Whatsapp message…
They did nothing…
Unilaterally changing T&C’s
IHG changed the Terms and Conditions unilaterally without advising me or making sure that I had received the message and understood it. Since I am not in the habit of logging into accounts for no reason (when I understand it is meant to last for life) I didn’t see a supposed notification on my dashboard.
The Grand Reset
If you see my travels over the past 3 years you’ll notice that I’ve been a bit off the beaten path in recent adventures (backpacking, hiking, organised travel). That’s the reason I didn’t visit any of their hotels. In 2017 I am back to business travel and upon viewing my account in January 2017 learnt of the grand reset of May 2016.
Change Management failure or Ulterior Motives?
Having worked over a decade in corporate banking I can tell you that if there is an account with money and no dormancy rules attached to the account a product manager cannot just change the T&C’s. To close the account if all methods to contact the customer were exhausted they’d need a death certificate. If the T&C’s were being changed a change management team would go out of their way to contact each customer individually if the impact was of monetary value. Or am I just a number to them on the system to be auto-reset. Not a human. Of no value? Dead to the brand with no future potential? No economic value?
Are IHG Reward Club points worth it?
I thought they were. I attached monetary value to it (nights and perks in exchange for points) but clearly someone in their team didn’t seem to think so. Unless they wanted to reclaim the points and bank it as an internal saving? I hope not.
Against the face of caring that the entire hospitality industry is expected to project? Values that they need to live?
I don’t know. I just want my points reallocated to my account. The social team’s response that they cannot change the rules is not acceptable. They’ve done just that to favor themselves. If they can’t reverse it, they can allocate me new points under another scheme.
IHG Rewards Club, <Specify issue> ain’t cool.
How did such a rewarding program flip on their clients?
Dear IHG, #MakeItRight. I’m hurt. Your team has my contact details and account number.
How would you expect me to rate you at present when you ask me this question?
Can we try and make it feedback worth 5 stars please? Just as your brand should be aiming to service clients?
The social team have advised that they don’t have the authority to make it right. I still believe that they can connect me to the right persons in the organisation. It would be so cool if we could be working together on a promotional campaign instead.