Mark Weinstein is the Senior Vice President of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Partnerships for Hilton Worldwide. Like many customer experience executives, he searched for a career path that matched his skills and passion for helping customers comprehensively across the business. Mark’s been with Hilton since 2010 — prior to that he was with MarketBridge and PwC — and one of the most interesting aspects of this episode is walking through his career path and ascension within the Hilton brand all the way up to his global position today. A lot of my impetus for starting this podcast was to give younger and/or middle management customer experience would-be executives more context on building out a career. (That’s why I end every episode with a “What you know now that you wish you knew then” question.) Mark was a great guest in that regard.
Mark leads Hilton’s customer strategy as SVP and global head of loyalty & partnerships. He is responsible for inspiring customers across the world to explore, experience and fall in love with Hilton’s hotels and brands. He creates innovative programs, products and partnerships that drive engagement, grow share of wallet and accelerate performance.Mark serves as the senior exec responsible for HHonors, Hilton’s 52+ million member strong, J.D. Power-winning guest loyalty program. He is responsible for a multi-billion-dollar, global P&L, including the management of a billion+ dollar franchisee fund. He initiated and is leading the strategic transformation of HHonors from a program for only frequent travelers to a club more relevant to all travelers. This reimagined strategy enables Hilton to form one-to-one relationships with all customers to gain strategic insights and deliver personalized experiences.
Mark is a data-driven leader, responsible for rearchitecting Hilton’s go-to-market strategy and helping integrate marketing, digital, ecommerce, sales, revenue management/pricing, distribution, customer contact, loyalty and partnerships. Mark served as chief of staff and strategist for the global team. He supported Hilton’s transition from private equity back to the public markets and is responsible for updating the CEO, HLT Board, and franchisees.
Mark oversees Hilton’s global partnership strategy. He curates a network of over 140 strategic partners including financial American Express, Citi, Visa, 65+ airlines, travel partners such as Enterprise Holdings, American Express Business Travel and uber. He leads a global portfolio of Hilton HHonors co-branded credit cards. Under Mark’s leadership, Hilton launched Hilton@PLAY– a call to action to get out, explore the world and…play! At the core of the experiential and content program are exclusive experiences created with partners Live Nation, The Recording Academy (the GRAMMYs), McLaren-Honda Formula 1, and GLAAD.
The Chief Question Asker
One of the most interesting parts of this interview is when I asked Mark to define:
- His role
- How he knows what success looks like therein
He said he considers himself the CQA, not the CCO. Chief Question Asker. In short, you need to keep probing all levels to understand:
I think that’s a fantastic way to conceptualize this work.
Elevate The Facts And Drive The Experience
Hilton is a massive global brand. There are more than 300,000 employees around the world. There’s also dozens of different executives, SVPs, etc. How did Mark move towards one-company leadership in such a huge organization? It was a challenge, and he admits that, but he said it rested on two concepts:
- Elevate the facts: In this way, other executives have a clear picture of what’s really going on.
- Drive other leaders to experience the brand: Be a customer. Go to the hotels. See the pain points that others might be experiencing.
In this section of the podcast, he talks overall about his immersion experience for CCO work. Listen carefully there. It’s a process that many younger CX leaders could incorporate.
The Bumps In The Road: Silo-by-Silo Prioritization
We’ve all seen this play out in our organizations, unfortunately. Once customer-driven work begins to gain traction, various other silos grab that work and redefine it in their terms. This creates a smattering of strategies, plans, executions, and action items — but, sadly, no unification. One of my most important customer experience competencies has always been one-company leadership. If you have an organization totally designed around silo-by-silo action plans, metrics, surveys, and strategies … you’re going nowhere and customer churn will be through the roof. Bank on that. You need to unify the areas and don’t let operations or finance grab at customer metrics in their own vocabulary.
What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then
Mark is a seasoned, pragmatic customer experience leader — and his answers here were thoughtful.
- Find partners across the business: You want to be building the business together, not mandating change for others.
- Be wrong — and be wrong a lot: Humility is crucial in this business. Many in white-collar work fear failure, but it’s actually a great driver of growth.
- Be “passionately dispassionate:” This basically means being pragmatic but passionate, and not letting your emotions get in the way of selecting the right path forward.
- Remember the magic: There is a magic to this work and these experiences we get to define and map, and when it works, it’s awesome to be a part of. Always remember that!
We’ll be back on Thursday with a new blog post on preventing customer defection.