A Deloitte study of hotel loyalty shook up the industry by revealing that only 8 percent of respondents were completely loyal to the same hotel brand. Gasp! Are hotel loyalty programs still worth the cost to hoteliers? Or are there better ways to woo and retain customers?

The Deloitte study appears to suggest that a new approach is necessary. Standard points systems and the hope of a free night’s stay don’t appear to be enough to capture and keep the interest of today’s well-informed, tech-savvy travelers. In order to be effective, hotels need to veer away from the generic, in favor of customized loyalty programs that offer guests personalized experiences and rewards.

What do today’s guests want and expect? Research shows that price, comfort and service are some of the driving factors that guide customer loyalty. They also want a great experience. The most successful programs combine meaningful value with benefits that add to the overall experience. Some large, luxury hotel brands are taking this to the next level by offering their top-tier loyalty guests “experiences” such as complementary access to a luxury vehicle or a cooking class with a world-famous chef! No matter the size of their property, hoteliers can find ways to make rewards personally meaningful to targeted customers and, in turn, play a proactive role in reshaping the customer’s experience and inclination toward brand loyalty.

Relationships are also key when it comes to navigating guest loyalty. After all, we are in the hospitality industry. While today’s technology makes it easier than ever to capture guest preference data and automate experiences, hoteliers must not lose sight of the value of a friendly face and on-site interaction with guests. It’s a no-brainer; guests who leave with a special, personalized experience will want to return.

Yet today’s guests have access to more choices and information than ever – and they are armed with smart phones and mobile devices that make it easy for them to comparison shop and book rooms on-the-fly. A hotel that continually looks for ways to stand out and surprise its customers with upgrades to rooms and services will win a customer’s loyalty. Why go to your competitor for the standard breakfast buffet if your property is known for offering guests an unexpected amenity? A new ergonomic mattress, a baking session with your resident pastry chef, or a yoga class in the lobby? Stay a step ahead of your competitors by keeping your guests engaged and bringing them exceptional services and offers.

The path to achieving guest loyalty doesn’t have to mean detours and roadblocks. Hoteliers can stay on course by remaining in sync with their guests’ preferences and adding unexpected value to the overall hotel experience.