Public trust in the travel industry has hit an all-time low. While it’s fair to say that travel was — and continues to be — among the worst-impacted industries by the events of Covid-19. Constant rebookings, cancellations, and limited refunds have left customers confused and frustrated, shattering customer trust and loyalty.
By: Ewan Mcdonald
While the steady re-opening of international borders is providing some solace to those travellers itching to get away — and to airlines and travel companies eager to build back lost profits — constant changes in global restrictions continue to build uncertainty in the minds of consumers and limit the industry’s persistent efforts to get back on its feet.
Changing travel rules are virtually impossible to predict, but there are some key steps airlines and travel companies can take to ensure their customers are always put first.
Understanding changes in consumer behavior
Rebuilding customer trust and lost revenues require travel companies to view each customer as a unique individual and tailor communication to them on a very granular level. Personalised mailing lists will no longer make the cut, it’s about developing an in-depth understanding the consumer’s behaviour, from favourite country of travel right down to preference for aisle seat or window. This understanding is the key to the sector’s eventual bounce back.
Many travel companies are still using traditional excel spreadsheets to store customer data, but these can often contain errors and inconsistencies, leading to costly mistakes. The upkeep of these spreadsheets is also very time and labour-intensive, weighing heavy on team workloads and stealing time away from more important long-term and strategic tasks.
These outdated systems also leave travel companies with very little insight into their customer’s behaviours. They need to know who their customers are, their habits, what holidays they typically book and whether these are seasonal. Does Jenny Smith enjoy a yearly skiing trip in February with her partner? Let’s send chalet deals for her favourite village equipped with discounts on all-access passes. Did we mention, we can also reserve ski boots in her size and book a mid-morning flight as she prefers?
If travel companies are equipped with quick access to this information, they can not only flag relevant discounts and package deals, but they can completely unburden their customer — taking care of all the small (but important) details and leaving the customer to enjoy a trip which is completely tailored to them. This level of personalisation is possible, yet many current booking systems only allow customers to book a one-off trip and don’t capture any of the crucial information required to predict future intentions.
A one stop shop
One way this level of personalisation can be achieved is via a comprehensive CRM system. Building this kind of software into a travel company’s core systems enables an end-to-end process and offers a complete picture of each individual customer. It provides a single source of truth for managing customer data, and it is stored centrally, making it easy to edit and share throughout the business.
With this kind of software, customers already ‘exist’ on the booking system. This enables sales, marketing, and customer service teams to collaborate and understand the customer data easily, developing strategies that build personalisation to drive the best results.
As with our Jenny Smith example, a travel company can hold contact records containing booking and passenger information, previous holiday destinations, lifestyle habits, and holiday budgets to create a singular customer profile. Travel companies can then use this to create targeted marketing opportunities and email campaigns based on the data, ensuring no quality lead is ever missed.
More than ever before, it is vital that the global travel industry uses data to drive decision making. They must be able to react quickly in response to key insights. Not only does this knowledge help travel companies to stand out from the crowd and gain competitive advantage, but enables them to provide an exceptional customer experience, consequently rebuilding that all-important customer trust.
Let’s say we have a group of travellers that love cycling adventures. Access to their previous data gives the travel company immediate knowledge of the brand of bicycle a person previously used and enjoyed, where they went, for how long and any feedback details received on their accommodation or food. By combining this information to offer an exciting and new cycling adventure holiday, travel companies can maintain a competitive edge.
Ultimately, this in-depth insight enables travel companies to pursue the right opportunities without wasting time and money targeting the wrong customers. Sales teams can re-engage customers with new offers. Engagement analytics can inform marketing departments what messages are working and with which audiences. Bring all of this insight together and departments can work in synergy to identify opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling quickly and efficiently.
Despite the events of the past 18 months, the future of the travel sector remains bright. Flight numbers are slowly beginning to creep back up and wide-scale vaccine roll-out is enabling more opportunities for international travel. Looking towards the future, as in the present, customers must always come first. Only with a smart, customer-focused strategy will travel companies survive to thrive in the recovery period and beyond.
Changing restrictions are inevitable as governments and businesses grapple with the safest way to resume life as normal. CRM systems can be programmed to update automatically as travel restrictions lift and tighten, providing tailored insight on each individual country of travel.
Furthermore, any concerns that customers have about travelling post-Covid, such as journey advice, quarantine rules, and vaccine requirements can be also designed into the communication process. This approach ensures customers are aware of updates as rules change in different countries, offering reassurance and confidence as they return to travel.
When a consistent effort is made to ensure that every interaction is valuable, customer satisfaction increases, fostering trust and long-term loyalty. Embracing the latest developments in customer relationship management equips travel companies with a better view of their customer base, ensuring their expectations are exceeded at every stage.
Ewan Mcdonald is the Interim CEO at SalesAgility. SalesAgility delivers CRM solutions to organisations of all sizes across the globe, enabling them to understand customer habits, how they may have changed as a result of the pandemic, and helping them pivot marketing activity to future proof their business.