Today Mark Vondrasek was appointed Hyatt’s new executive vice president and global head of loyalty & new business platforms. I was excited about Mark’s appointment, given that he spent over 15 years with Starwood, where he oversaw SPG, mobile applications, digital initiatives, etc. (if there’s one area where Hyatt could use some help, it’s with technology).
Anyway, I just had the chance to speak with Mark about his vision for his new role. I asked you guys in the previous post if you have any questions, and I tried to ask as many of them as possible. So while I won’t be posting a transcript or anything, here are my general takeaways from the conversation:
Why Hyatt and Starwood are similar
Mark feels like Hyatt and Starwood have similar DNAs, they’re both passionate about creating new experiences, and they both drive the true spirit of loyalty.
I agree with Mark on this, and it’s a reason I’ve been loyal to both brands for so long.
What does Mark make of World of Hyatt?
As a platform for engaging guests, Mark thinks that World of Hyatt is spot on. I think it’s important to differentiate this from the actual points and elite program. In other words, World of Hyatt is intended to be Hyatt’s broader approach to how they interact with guests, and Mark likes the idea behind that.
What are the immediate priorities?
It’s day one for Mark, so it’s understandable he didn’t have a specific answer here. He explained that loyalty is about continuous improvements, so it’s too early for him to know exactly what he wants to do. Instead he wants to do a lot of listening and act based on that.
I commented on the things that impressed me about SPG and their technology and partnerships, and he said that SPG did a great job creating a feedback loop and building capabilities through mobile apps, etc., and he hopes to take a similar approach at Hyatt.
When will World of Hyatt have a new SVP?
Mark is the new EVP of loyalty & new business platforms. World of Hyatt specifically still needs an SVP, though. Mark said they’re actively looking for someone to fill this role, and hope to have it filled before the end of the year.
Is World of Hyatt a failure?
I tried to ask this question as delicately as possible. I explained that most of the members I hear from aren’t thrilled with World of Hyatt, and asked if he thinks that represents the general sentiment of members, or whether we’re a vocal minority.
He didn’t provide a direct answer to this, which I don’t blame him for. It’s not nice to show up at your new job on day one and say negative things about what has been done before. He did say:
- It’s day one for him, and the voice of the members is critically important; if members are frustrated by the program, it’s absolutely being picked up on and understood, and will be looked into
- He emphasized once again that continuous improvements and structural changes are always being made in loyalty programs, and that these will reflect the sentiments of members
What gives me a lot of hope
Secretly do I wish he had said “there were so many screw-ups with World of Hyatt, and we’re going to change them?” Sure. But I wouldn’t expect him to, and in many ways, that wouldn’t be cool of him to do.
However, there are a couple of things I really appreciated:
- At the end of the call he said he’s in listening mode, and asked me for my take on the program, and what can be done to improve; that means a lot, as it’s rare that happens when I get on one of these calls, because often it’s just executives going through their talking points and then hanging up
- He ended the call by acknowledging the feedback and saying he’ll look into it, and if something can’t be done, he’ll share why
What changes would I like to see from World of Hyatt?
Mark’s role goes far beyond the loyalty program, though personally it’s World of Hyatt that I’m most passionate about. In hopes of being constructive, I figured I’d share a few areas where I think there’s room for improvement. To me the below are no brainer changes:
- Count award stays towards status. Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, etc., all do so. In the past I’ve been told this was a technological limitation, though it’s just uncompetitive not to offer this anymore, especially as the elite thresholds have been increased.
- Offer promotions. Hyatt has offered a single global promotion all year, which ran for three months. This is uncompetitive compared to all other global hotel chains. Hilton has offered global promotions for exactly 12 months in 2017. Heck, the most generous promotion Hyatt has offered is to disloyal members.
- Have Globalist Suite Upgrade Awards expire at year-end. Globalist members earn four confirmed suite upgrades per year, and they expire 12 months from when they’re issued. This simply makes no sense, because for some members it makes it advantageous to stay elsewhere, so you can have those expire later in the next year. These should expire at the end of the membership year, just as they have with Starwood.
Then there are things that it would be nice to see, including the following:
- Introduce meaningful mid-tier elite benefits. Explorist status requires a significant number of nights, though doesn’t come with competitive benefits compared to what other programs offer at the mid-tier. It would be nice to see Hyatt add more.
- Don’t expire free nights after 120 nights. Hyatt is offering all kinds of opportunities to earn free night certificates, though they expire after 120 days. For many members that isn’t enough time to use them, but that’s probably by design.
- Add the ability to transfer points into miles at a favorable rate. With hotel occupancy quite high, you’d think this is something they’d want to do, since presumably their cost of points redemptions for free nights is going up. Both Marriott and Starwood make it possible to convert hotel points into airline miles at a lucrative ratio. Surely Hyatt could introduce something similar.
I’m confident Mark will do a great job at Hyatt. I didn’t expect to get straight answers on any of my World of Hyatt questions, which is fair enough, since it’s day one for him. However, between his background at Starwood, his desire to listen, and his general background with creating partnerships and supporting technological innovations, I’m excited to see what he does.
Now we’ll have to see who Hyatt appoints as the new SVP of World of Hyatt.
What would you like to see from World of Hyatt going forward?