Hilton, founded in 1919 by visionary Conrad Hilton, is an iconic brand recognized worldwide. From its humble beginnings in Cisco, TX, the brand’s innovative leadership, dedicated team members, devotion to delivering the best possible stay for guests, and drive to create extraordinary customer experiences have gone on to change the world of hospitality.
That passion remains part of the global hospitality company’s practice today and is reflected in the brand’s values: Hospitality, Integrity, Leadership, Teamwork, Ownership, and Now — operating with a sense of urgency. In other words, Hilton.
Beyond its award-winning Hilton Honors customer loyalty program, the brand continues to explore opportunities to understand and celebrate its members and guests through special experiences and unique benefits.
Mark Johnson, CEO of Loyalty360, spoke with Jenn Chick, Senior Vice President & Global Head, Hilton Honors & Customer Engagement, about the upcoming National Woman Road Warrior Day, how the company leverages women in leadership, and how Hilton makes it easier to bring families along on the journey — even when traveling for business.
Read the full interview on Loyalty360 here: https://loyalty360.org/content-gallery/in-depth-exclusives/celebrating-women-who-travel-a-q-a-with-hilton-s-jenn-chick-about-national-woman-road-warrior-day-a
Good afternoon, good morning. This is Mark Johnson from Loyalty 360. Hope everyone's happy, safe and well. I want to welcome you back to another edition of our Leaders in Customer Loyalty series. In this series, we speak with leading brands about what they are seeing and hearing on the front lines of customer channel and brand loyalty. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Chick. She's the Senior Vice President and Global Head of Hilton Honors and Customer Engagement. Jennifer, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today. How are you?Jennifer Chick:
Thanks so much, mark. Great to be here. Really excited for the conversation.Mark Johnson:
First off, we'd like to start these on a more personal level. We'd love to know a little bit more about yourself, your current role in Hilton and maybe some roles leading up to where you are now, and maybe a fun fact or passion you have outside of work.Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, sure. So I've been in Hilton now nearly 12 years, so a long time. Various roles across the organization, around marketing and loyalty basically my entire time here. I currently hold the role over, as you said, hilton Honors and Customer Engagement. So think of it all things customer. I am focused on our loyalty program, hilton Honors, our co-brand credit card product, which is a close cousin, I always say to Hilton Honors and how we engage our customers in a meaningful way across all of our marketing activities. So everything from customer acquisition to retention activities. Of course Hilton Honors and our co-brand are great ways to do that, but we do that through other things as well, through our marketing efforts. So I do all of the planning efforts around our marketing to make sure that we are capturing the right set of customers with the right messages and the right channels and hopefully get them into our Hilton Honors family.Mark Johnson:
Hilton is a veritable brand known worldwide. But for those who may not be familiar with the iconic brand, can you give us a? Brief overview of Conrad Hilton and the company he founded.Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, so we really carry Conrad's vision forward here in the organization. So the legacy of Conrad is in the halls of Hilton, I like to say, and he really was here to build this amazing company to fill the light and warmth of hospitality across the world and that's really what we see our mission to do and to continue on in his legacy. So we have over 7,000 properties hotels around the world so I think it's actually 7,300 in total and 123 countries. We have 22 different brands. We basically have a brand almost across the board to cater to almost every type of travel occasion that you might have and really almost every part of the world that you could think to travel. And what's really interesting, I think, about Conrad and his vision for this company and how we've carried it forward is he's always been an innovator in hospitality. So some of the things you may or may not know about Hilton and our hundred here history we actually started some of the most famous foods. So the brownie was started at the Palmer House, the Pina Colada at the Korean Bay Hilton, and so we have the Waldorf salad at the Waldorf. So we have some amazing moments in food and beverage and dining, which are, of course, a huge part of our brand, but then also other innovations like air conditioning in your hotel Thank you for that, conrad Hilton and so just always trying to stay on the cutting edge of what's next in terms of travel, and really that's how we continue to run the company today. So things through the digital app, like digital key, choose your room those types of innovations are really starting from this idea of how do we continue to show up differently in the space of hospitality.Mark Johnson:
Can you give a brief overview of the history of the Hilton Honors loyalty program? It's an amazing program, world class, always adding new functionality to it. So we'd love to know a little bit more about how the program works, how members engage with it and what are the benefits to the consumer and to the brand for the program.Jennifer Chick:
Yeah. So we, you know I really try to make it very easy, as easy as we possibly can. Loyalty programs, as you know, inherently are complex, particularly in the travel space, and we really want to make it easy for our customers to engage with us and to get the benefits and perks that Hilton Honors has to offer. So we have 165 million members, so you're right that we are the fastest growing loyalty program in the industry and we have both sort of offline, if you will, and online mixed together in our customer experience to deliver those benefits. So, you know, trying to make it easier when you show up, if you're not a Hilton Honors member, to sign up at the front desk as quick as possible, but putting also QR codes in the room for members to, to, for guests to join on their own if they want. So make it easy, give you points on your first day. So we're really trying to make sure that we make it seamless and easy from the very first moment but then, as you're in the program with us, to make it easy to earn points, to burn points, both in your travel but also in your everyday. So we have the ability, for example, for you to use your points when you're shopping on Amazon. You're something you're probably already doing anyway. Let's give you the perk, in the moment where you are, you know, being able to partner. We have several airlines that we have a points transfer with. For example, we have a partnership with Lyft, where you can earn points by linking your Hilton Honors account with Lyft, so and you can actually bulk your Lyft ride through the Hilton Honors app to make it very seamless, as you know, when you're rushing from home to the airport, to your hotel. We want to make that as easy for our members as possible, so we have a lot of benefits and perks that are really embedded into things that you're already doing. We also have a number of sort of once in a lifetime benefits as well, so making sure that you can, you know, get access to events and entertainment and dining and cultural events that maybe you couldn't get anywhere else. So imagine a drumming lesson with Travis Barker, like just you and Travis. Like where he's teaching you the ropes, you know, wine tasting behind the scenes at a concert with Brandy Carlisle. So, just once, very unique places where we can show up as really being there, as the host. But also, with these incredible moments, with some of the, you know, the most renowned chefs, artists around the world. But we also allow you to use your points to just get tickets for a concert. So if you aren't going to do it once in a lifetime but you're going to go to a concert, why not just use your points as an easy way? So, for us, we're just always trying to create as little friction as possible and engaging and getting the most out of your relationship through Hilton Honors.Mark Johnson:
National Woman Road Warrior Day On September 19th. He is an annual observance dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the remarkable achievements of women who thrive in the demanding world of business travel. How have female leaders at Hilton, like yourself, played an integral role in leading a positive Hilton experience for all customers and, in particular, women who frequently travel for work?Jennifer Chick:
Yes. So thanks, you know. Thanks for highlighting this, because I mean I am the definition of the road warrior, female road warrior. I am a mom of three kids. I have a six to 10 and an almost 13 year old, which is scary to say, and I am the one who travels in the family. My husband's job is quite local, so I'm on the road quite a lot and you know clearly, I think at Hilton we have a number of women at all ranks of the organization, but even at the top on our board, we have great female representation on the board in our executive committee and leading functions like I'm leading the loyalty function throughout the organization, building our brands, making sure the female voice is heard, and we have team member resource groups that we tap into and we have a team member resource group for women and we actually go to those groups to help us get a female perspective when we're doing things like room design. So years ago I was leading the women's team member resource group and we were working on a brand design and we had a lot of conversation about for women to all know the hairdryer versus the mirror and where the two are placed and how to best put your, apply your makeup on the right mirror with the right lighting all the things that I think many women have to deal with when we're traveling for work that probably you know, maybe men are not at the top of mind. So we also try to make sure that we're bringing that female voice into the work every day through our team members and nurturing that. You know we've been on the great places to work list the top 100 companies work for forbs, including for women, for a number of years running through our team members. So you know representation within our organization to make sure that we're considering the female traveler is part of our strategy of making sure that we are inclusive as a great place to stay for all, which is one of our aims as an organization, and so I think that I think that I'm going to be able to kind of get to the side, just as a traveler myself. You know it's. It's really amazing for me to take my children on travel when you know one for the payoff of all the work that I put on the road all year long, to be able to sort of use those ideas to connect with my family, but also to show them my work right, because that's that's what I do every day, so they actually get to experience and they bring believe me, they are there. No, they give me no mercy. They will share their ideas to that they like and don't like directly with me when they have a stay experience with us. But it's great to be able to show them and the you know what my every day looks like, what I'm constantly thinking about, to ask them questions for ideas, so to be able to give them the little perks that I get through my Hilton honors membership, just like everybody else. I'm a diamond member, just like anybody else and you know those perks really come in handy for for me when I travel and it's a great for all the sacrifice that I spend away from my family to be able to have those perks to share with themMark Johnson:
I think it is recognized on September 19th, national Woman Road Wargaday, when you consider the difference look at the differences. How should brands consider the contrast to enhance the loyalty program, the contrast between what males may expect and what females may expect? What's one piece of advice you would give to aspiring brand leaders?Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, I mean, I think all of us are striving to try to be as personalized in our service as possible. The more we know about a customer, the more we can provide them with the experience and the opportunities that are most relevant for them, regardless of who they are. And I can think about again, because I'm a mom. I can think about the number of times that I was traveling for work and I was breastfeeding and I needed a refrigerator in my room so that I could store the milk. And actually, hilton, we have a service that actually allows us to ship that back home, which has been great, but it wasn't available at the time when I had kids, but we have it now, which has been one, because a female executive at Hilton had a baby and she said we've got to get a service like this. So we're trying to do this for our team members. But just remembering those, you know, if you're at a conference and you need to find a place like a mother's room and they're not readily a parent in the hotel, it's very difficult to sort of navigate that, and then you have to go around and awkwardly have conversations with people, right? So just some of those moments, I think airports have done a great job of actually recognizing this and having a you know sort of booze where women can go, et cetera. But those little touches really matter, and when the hotel knows you need something and they kind of go above and beyond to help you, it makes a huge difference. So just remembering, you know, and even just asking a couple questions about what you might need, I think are great ways for brands. People are willing to tell brands things about themselves if it's going to benefit their experience, and so I think there's a lot of opportunity for us in the space particularly of loyalty, where customers are more interested in having a relationship with you, for us to actually, you know, ask those question.Mark Johnson:
This is a third party right who does the milk shipping, for example? Like that's where loyalty comes in to a great space, because most loyalty programs have partnerships as part of those, and so you can do something with a relationship that provides ancillary services that maybe you as a brand wouldn't necessarily offer, but allow there to be some kind of partnership there where the best of both worlds come together.Mark Johnson:
Throughout your tenure at Hilton, technology and member experience have been a significant focus of the organization. Loyalty members can access contactless technology to get into a room share digital key cards, check in easily and check out, and what ways do you plan to continue evolving convenience for the customer through technology at Hilton?Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, we, I think you know everywhere we can find ways to take the friction out of the experience is where we're focused and I think to create that personalization, like I mentioned before. So you know, clearly, being able to, to use your, your phone, as you mentioned, your room key is great because it takes that friction of you're busy and you are a road warrior, you just want to collapse in your room. You can just go right to your room, being able to choose your rooms. Everybody has different preferences, so we have a great product and benefit offering around automated upgrades. So 72 hours in advance, we will actually offer you an automated upgrade if there's one available, if space space permitting, and you can choose the availability in the room. And it's just amazing as I as I read customer feedback on it that everybody sort of has a different definition of what an upgrade for them is. Some people want to be far from an elevator, some people. So you know, being able to allow the flexibility for customers to also choose what's right for them is equally as important is. Just take, sometimes blindly, taking the friction out from a technology doesn't always solve the problem for the customer. So I think we're continuing to look for those opportunities. You know we have a. You know the ability to create a connected room experience where, when you walk in, you can get the content on your TV, that is the content you're used to viewing at home, etc. So how can we continue to make it that little touches feel more like home, make sure that you can personalize it to your stay experience? I think, as we start to think about bringing in younger travelers, I think most of us in the hospitality industry continue really most of us marketers are all trying to get to younger travelers or younger customers. That's part of the next generation or wave. You know. Their habits and practices are just more. It's more common for them to engage in ways digitally, and so we need to be more digitally native than we probably ever been before. That it's not just an innovation, but it's truly part of the DNA of how they engage with the brand. So we're looking at opportunities, you know, in the coming months that will, you know, continue to innovate how that we bring forward the right offerings to customers in a seamless manner based on what their desires and needs are.Mark Johnson:
One of the unique things as well is Hilton Honor members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows them to choose nearly any combination of points and currency to book a stay, an exclusive member discount, free standard Wi-Fi and more. You know how have these benefits resulted in greater customer loyalty for Hilton and how you see yourself continuing to reward Hilton Honor members going forward?Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, I think we're definitely trying to find ways to again to allow the customer to choose the thing that's right for them, so you know, and to make the value more immediate. I think and I think this is particularly for younger travelers the immediacy is more is really important. They're used to having things right away. So you know points and money slider, for example, allows you to unlock value. Maybe before you, maybe you haven't built up a big bank, maybe you're not a road warrior that's hitting the. You know, the, the, you know travel every single week, but you have a fairly decent number of points. We want you to be able to unlock that value. So I think you'll continue to see us find these opportunities to create modularity and flexibility in what we're offering so that you can take advantage of it more in the moment or when the moment is right for you. You know I would be remiss to tell you one of the probably one of my favorite innovations as a company that we've done as a working parent, but as as a parent in total is connected rooms. Being able to book a connected room when you have small children is a must, because I can't leave my five-year-old in the room by herself. I have to actually be connected and it seems like such a simple thing to be able to book a connecting room, but if anybody has tried to do it in the last decade, it is hard you know to to figure it out, and so now for your ability to do that on your own is is. For me, it's been a huge unlock and a burden. That was a real headache for me when I was booking travel in the past. So I think it's not a loyalty only benefit, but as we continue to just think about ways to innovate against the different types of travelers and for families that's one of the biggest headaches that we've heard from customers will continue to find those innovation opportunities.Mark Johnson:
There's a good deal of discussion with our brand members about how customers are changing, changed going into COVID, changed, going through COVID and now coming out of COVID. Certainly, the travel and hospitality industry was hit hard by the pandemic. You know what changes have you seen and how women in business approach travel as a result, you know how has this demographic evolved and maybe how do you see going forward.Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, I don't think you know. I don't know what the cut of the data would look like specifically by women, but we've done some travel trending research on our end and we talk to customers all the time. We're definitely seeing a trend towards the mix of mixing of business and leisure as they're on the road. I imagine this is true for women and men probably alike, but certainly for women to try to bring more of the family into the travel when you can and you're in a great place. We're seeing length of stay actually growing. So that says probably because they're mixing business and leisure together as things have blended a little bit more, and the flexibility to be able to work more remotely. I mean now people have spouses that can do their job from anywhere. Their companies haven't gone back into the office and so there's more freedom for them maybe to be on the road with you, for example. So I think all of those types of trends I think are maybe here to stay, particularly as I think the workplace I'm not sure where the workplace is gonna land, but I'm not sure we're ever gonna go back to everybody's in an office five days a week. I think some companies are gonna stay either hybrid or remote, and that alone is gonna change the footprint of travel. Face to face is always likely to be important in the right moments, and that becomes even more than important that you have those travel moments to get that face to face if you're not having it in an office environment. So with that, I think you're gonna start to see those travel trends changing along with it. Business and leisure bleasurers it's called right Et cetera kind of blending together as well.Mark Johnson:
How does employee engagement and or loyalty fit into the larger customer loyalty discussion? Are employees trained or engaged with differently today and how do you see this evolving as well? You talked about some of the changes in travel corporate travel, maybe down, leisure travel, maybe up and in light of this, how are you training your employees to understand the benefits of the loyalty program, but also the benefits to the consumer, so they can talk about it?Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, this is we're really lucky and it's one of the things that kind of keeps me up at light. I run the Hilton Honors program but the reality is I actually everybody who's in our hotels runs the Hilton Honors program. Right, they're the face of Hilton Honors when somebody shows up to give the experience to a customer and we most want them to have when they're on property, which is probably the most important moments when we're with the customer. Right, there's a lot of stuff we do before and after and some of that is more sort of in my control, but the team member in the front desk and the warm welcome that you get is really outside of my control in some ways. And where I feel like we're really fortunate is that we really have very dedicated team members who, I mean probably some of our greatest cheerleaders for Hilton Honors are our team members, and I see it in social. Often they're helping give tips and tricks to members to help them navigate their travel experience or a great hotel or, and I love to see that. So, knowing that the not only do I need them to deliver the best warm, hospitable experience, but also that they're gonna be our greatest advocates, we want them to experience the program to its fullest too. So we have programs internally at Hilton to make sure that all of our team members have access to status. We have a great travel program called GoHilton that we have special rates for team members as they work for Hilton. To get team member rates and on top of that to get the status benefits as well, means that they can really live and breathe the Hilton Honors experience so that they can not only deliver it but be the right advocate for what they get, because they've experienced it themselves. And I think as we train I mean we've had a lot of turnover, like a lot of industries have. I think the necessity of continuing to keep training top of mind, front and center, bite sized so that it's digestible, is the task for us all across the travel industry right now. We're no different than that. But just making sure that when someone shows up that they can say hi, mark, it's so great to see you, thank you for being a Diamond Member Like that goes a long way for our members. We need to make sure that those important moments are well understood and known by our team members. If there's a frequency of turnover, we need to make sure that that training continues to be front and center as we go through the course of the year. We're just putting the right peppering out of making sure that the delivery is there as well.Mark Johnson:
One of the questions we like to ask leaders like yourself is when you look at customer loyalty are there other programs you admire from a customer loyalty perspective and if so, what do you like about their offerings?Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, I always give the example of Starbucks. That's probably a like everybody example, but when it's an everybody example, it's a great brand. Everybody knows it and I'm obviously very loyal. We have a Starbucks in the building, so that's probably my downfall of my. But also the greatest gift that I have every morning is knowing when to get that shot of caffeine. One of the things I really admire about Starbucks is the scale at which they do loyalty. Listen, I'm doing it too right. Across 7,000 plus hotels, it's hard to have scale. I mean consistency and in a franchise environment. So I'm just always very impressed about how they've been able to marry the benefits of loyalty with the operational experience that you have when you're in the store. So most people know about the gamification aspects of the loyalty program that Starbucks has, which is very bespoke and unique, and what Mark is getting versus what Jen is getting is different and that is incredible in and of itself. But then to be able to create the right consistency of moment even just like the way they handle personalization by putting your name on the cup and calling your name is its own way of doing personalization at scale, the way they try to bring community a little in so it feels like your local Starbucks, even though it's a massive chain that's everywhere all over the world. I think they're doing some things where they're bringing customer experience loyalty together in a nice way that I haven't seen other brands do as consistently. I also just think it's somewhat genius that we all give them our menu item, their future menu, because we're all telling them exactly what we want in our drinks. And when you aggregate that data across this number of customers that they have in their loyalty, you've got your menu, you've got your innovation pipeline in a way, and you know what your demand is. I think that's pretty smart on their part to gather that kind of preference data. I'm quite sure they're using it on the back end and they're pretty smart about it.Mark Johnson:
And the last question I have for you is what can Loyalty 360 do to help you and your team in your customer loyalty effort?Jennifer Chick:
Well, first of all, you've been great and we have a team member on our team who's come to us from Hilton. She's been here a while but is an absolute advocate for you guys because she used it quite heavily in her last role as well and she's I mean, obviously we partner with you guys but she's even bringing it into, like my team member, my team all hands calls to share resources across our team, sending around articles and just making it more of a lifeblood, honestly of good place to for thought provoking, intellectual property, kind of ideas that we're seeing at other companies that you guys are surfacing. So I think the resources that you have. She's really enjoyed the connection she's had with other peers across the industry and just keeping this as a top of mind conversation, for you know, like the, the, the, the women's road warrior day is a huge like step to just raising awareness on something that is a critical part of our business, and so for that you're shining the light on some, I think, interesting topics for us to be considering as we're building out our pieces of loyalty business in our respective industry, and I love the cross industry perspective so we're not just solely rooted in travel and hospitality only, but just knowing what others are doing and taking a view of that. So a wealth of resources. I would just say what what I found, particularly now with with our team member Madison, who's who's joined us, is you know we all have tons of resources around us, but you know you have to take the time to to to mine those resources and use them to your advantage, and she's really helped surface a lot of more opportunity than even we were taking advantage of before to help us figure out how to, how to really maximize the relationship, and I'm sure there's probably even more we could be doing. So I just say get you know, get someone on your team who can be focused on that, to make sure you're truly remembering to tap into that resource at the right points in time.Mark Johnson:
Jennifer, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today. It was great getting to know you a little more and also giving some more details on the National Woman Road Warrior Day and also when you look at some of the technology innovations you're putting forth in the program. It's great to hear and see what you guys are doing, but also do even hear how the passion you have for the customer, for the program, for your job is is is significant. A lot of times. We don't always hear that in the image we speak with, but it was definitely profound within your discussion. So thank you very much for that and thank you for all you do for customer loyalty.Jennifer Chick:
Yeah, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.Mark Johnson:
And thank you everyone else for taking time to tune in. Make sure you join us back again for another edition of our Leaders in Customer Lulty series. Until then, have a wonderful day. Thank you, guys. Bye.