The travel industry is one of the most competitive global industries, with low profit margins and dominated by a few big players. With customers that are more demanding and aware of compensation rules, such as EU Reg. 261/2004, it’s a challenge to sustain customer loyalty. The key is an impeccable customer experience with CRM as the essential tool to reach this goal.
Booking.com, Expedia, Skyscanner, the travel industry is dominated by aggregators and search engines. Airlines and hotel chains having difficulties to bind their customers to their brand. With low profit margins, price is an important factor. But we see a change in behaviour as the ‘seamless travel experience from door to door’ gets slowly the upper hand and with the increasing number of loyalty programs and members, old fashioned loyalty finds its way back.
Not that long ago, travellers had not many choices then to book with the local travel agency. The travel industry could rely on loyal customers. Business travellers were happy with their miles and status. Fast forward to today. Travel has become accessible for everyone. Internet is the number one platform to book your holiday, your flight, your stay, your rental car… Low cost airlines have made it possible to fly for a bargain. But times are changing. Frequent flyers demand more. They don’t want to wait in line, or put their trolley in the hold. Their status has to mean something and that has nothing to do with earning points. It’s all about a seamless travel experience. And there lies the opportunity.
But how grab it? To start, you have to offer a tailor-made customer experience especially in the travel industry. This requires data and knowledge about your customers and a good CRM to manage this data and allocate it in the right way.
Leisure travellers want to enjoy their experience they have been saving for and business travellers want to focus on their business instead of solving issues. Both want that seamless travel experience. So, how can CRM benefit the Customer Experience?
Identify your business and your customers. Be realistic. It makes no sense acting global, while you are operating local. Or focus on leisure, while the majority are business clients. Detect and collect useful data about your customers, a CRM is only delivering unless there is sufficient relevant information. Our advice is to choose the CRM software that perfectly fits your activity and your strategy.
Sounds logic, but how do you apply this when having you’re fighting severe competition? According to Neustar Marketing, there are five steps to upgrade your data management strategy to meet the needs of today’s travellers:
Once your data is up to date in the CRM, all your data is also in the same place so it’s easier to access, to use and to turn into actions. For instance:
You don’t have to do it all at once. Also step by step implementations will be received as a positive customer experience. Each time you think a bit more along with the client, that increases loyalty from the customer to your business, but also vice versa.
The big guys can afford the advanced CRM systems and adapt it to their needs, but they rely mostly on their name and reputation as a big player. What if the customer can’t make it to the hotel, to whom does he need to turn to get a rebooking or refund? Booking.com or the hotel? What if his frequent flyer miles are not credited because the option wasn’t available? With your CRM focussed on service, you already know the frequent flyer number, so the CRM automatically connects the number with the GDS (Global Distribution System). Your customer enjoys a seamless travel experience when attending the airline lounge and doesn’t have to queue when boarding or checking-in.
It requires constant monitoring of data. Your CRM needs to be focused on updating customer information regarding preferences, routine and demands.
In a fast moving and exciting global industry with low profit margins, dominated by a few big players, the 80-20 rule where 80% of revenue is generated from 20% of the customers, does not (yet) fully apply. Therefore, travel companies need to provide actions to enhance the customer experience of all customers with the same attention. A huge challenge, but also one with tremendous opportunities for those who dare to think and act out of the box.