The “Coupon Police” are Not Coming

When a customer comes in with a coupon that’s a year old, should you honor the coupon? Coupons and offers should be given an expiration date, and come with limitations. You want to be done with the program at some point, and to minimize the negative impact on revenues. However, the worst thing that can happen is an argument between customer and staff over the expiration date. The customer will stay this time anyway but they will probably not be back. If you have a successful marketing program that brings people in, be careful how you limit it. I’m big on using modest exclusions to deter abuse, but I’m soft on enforcement once the customer is at the front desk.

Sometimes we forget why we offer coupons, and in doing so we negate the original marketing purpose. Coupons (and special price offers) are intended to give consumers a reason to buy right now. The special offer ‘tips the scale’ of the value proposition for the prospect, causing them to take action. They find the coupon/offer in their hands, it motivates them to call/go online to close the deal. The property paid money (out of the marketing budget) to conceive/approve/design/distribute the offer in a way which maximizes exposure. When the consumer takes action in direct response to your marketing piece your mission is accomplished. That’s the way it intended to work.

Marketing Benefit
For the property the benefit is getting a new customer from the offer, and keeping them as a repeat customer for the future; the lost revenue gains you a repeat user. Then the customer becomes a regular repeat customer–that’s gold for hospitality properties. So enforcing the fine print on a coupon in order to be coupon police seems counter productive.

One principle of good customer service is to empower your front line employes in order that they can be responsive to customer requests. No need to get approval from management to give them an extra towel, for example. Empowering the front line staff does not mean giving them the power to be coupon police. They can have the power to be generous, sometimes.

Key Take-Away
The key is in coaching and training the staff. Firstly, inform them of the promotion and train them to track the marketing source in your reservations program. Secondly, give them the discretion to allow a customer to buy your service, even at a discount, even if the coupon is expired. Overall, creating a culture of open generosity is going to take you further than if your staff feels it’s their job to keep the rip-offs down. Don’t worry…if you satisfy the customer they’ll be back, without a coupon, and may bring a friend!