Building Customer Loyalty: One cup at a time

JavaWithJinThe 1,260-room Hyatt Regency Atlanta is a hotel familiar to many business travelers. Just a few blocks from the Georgia World Congress Center in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the majority of its guests are meeting attendees, many of whom spend their mornings rushing to their respective sessions or crossing the hotel’s sky bridge to other businesses nearby. Jin Pyen, business travel sales manager for the hotel, had often noticed the long coffee lines that stretched throughout the sky bridge and decided to use them as an opportunity to increase customer loyalty and engagement.
“I’ve been in this industry for close to 10 years, and I’ve always wanted to do something that guests could emotionally connect with when they stay here,” Pyen explains. “I wanted to make the hotel come alive. I always try to do something to connect with the guests. I wanted to do something I was passionate about. So, I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I do coffee?’ I noticed this long line at the market for people waiting to get coffee. So I though, ‘If they want free coffee, why not?’”  On the Wednesday morning of Feb. 27, 2013, “Java with Jin” was born. “I stood there by myself with two pots of coffee,” Pyen says of her first day. “I think people were originally perplexed and wondering if they had to pay for the coffee that I was serving.” Accompanying Pyen’s pots of coffee on a large communal table, she also includes small seasonal items from the chef — tomato jam in the summer, and pumpkin bread in the fall, for instance.
Since then, however, local business people and guests, are more than in the know. “Usually, at least 15 to 20 people stop by every Wednesday,” she says. “They really enjoy that connection. Java with Jin creates a space for people to come and network. They know I’m there every Wednesday from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The space is there for them to express how their stay is, or anything they might have to say about the hotel. It helps us know what we can do personally to deliver service that’s more personalized than the feedback you might get from a survey.”  During her weekly coffee breaks, Pyen also distributes a simple form that asks first-time participants for basic information — whether they’re a frequent guest, a local businessperson, a meeting planner, etc. And every Wednesday, those forms are entered into a drawing for an incentive of 1,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points.
Pyen says that the ROI from a few cups of coffee has been tremendous. “Our ROI was greater than what I expected,” she says. “The estimated revenue that we’ve generated, whether directly or indirectly, from engaging with customers is estimated at $38,000 [as of December 2013]. “ For Pyen, the weekly coffee breaks have reinforced the power of engagement and building customer loyalty. “It’s made me realize that people do business with people they like — they build trust with you,” she says. “In my role, I am creating a sort of habit for these local clients, and they are always thinking of Hyatt because of this. It’s priceless. The trust is there. When they want to do events or luncheons or happy hours, they think of us.” She adds, “We’ve gotten good local catering revenues out of Java with Jin. You know, there are major corporations that have these sophisticated systems where people book online but there’s another group of people who still want to do things on the local level. We’ve gotten really good feedback with those.”
For Pyen and her team, Java With Jin isn’t just a great opportunity for networking but for business promotion as well. “We are reaching out to promote our local catering or any specials that we’re doing, from a simple luncheon to an early happy hour. We promote all of that. I’ve always been a firm believer that, at the end of the day, it’s the same bed. But what really sets your hotel experience apart are the people that are drawn to you. Pyen admits that her plans to launch Java With Jin didn’t always encounter smooth sailing. “The F&B people thought I was going to steal their revenue away,” she exclaims. “I didn’t steal their revenue at all. It’s still been a positive impact and if they choose to stay with us they’ll still dine with us at our F&B outlets. We’re actually getting a bigger piece of the pie.” She adds, “You have to invest a little to get a bigger ROI.”
All in all, Pyen says, Java With Jin is a simple example of “business 101.” “If people trust you, they see doing business with you as an investment, and they’ll work with you regardless of how much I costs.”  She also says hotel management is very pleased with the buzz that Java with Jin has instilled in the local community and beyond. “They see how much business we’re bringing in, and they’re excited about this. The whole hotel is very happy about it.” She says that members of various departments — from housekeeping to the front desk — will also join her weekly Wednesday coffee breaks on occasion. And, as an added bonus, Pyen says that Java With Jin is an exercise in customer appreciation at its most basic form. “It’s a creative way to say ‘thank you’ to our guests, not just when they check in or out or have problems,” she says. “It’s a genuine way to say ‘thank you.’”