Let’s be honest upfront, I love a holiday! Travelling is one of my main loves and I’m a sucker for anywhere ‘new and exciting’. That’s partially why I’m interested in travel CRM.
I love the whole thing – from the excitement building as I explore possible destinations (already boring my friends), to the actual experience (boring friends on facebook), coming home (boring friends for years with photos and stories), and obviously planning again (and yes boring friends again).
The whole journey should be a fun, emotionally engaging and exciting experience.
However, I recently took a year out of work to go mid-life crisis/lux travelling with my family and I quickly realised that I don’t love being ignored.
- Why do so many companies seem to not want to help me choose my holiday?
- Why am I the only one trying to maintain my emotional engagement and excitement?
- Friends always ask me “where next?” – why is no one else asking? (I’m the definition of an easy sell)
Are all brands getting the basics of travel CRM right?
Driven by my frustrations we recently carried out some simple research on travel companies, and whether they are even attempting to engage with consumers. We looked at reaction to brochure and email newsletter requests, queries by email or to call centres, and also communications before and after holidays (The most basic elements of travel CRM).
Their silence was deafening, out of 15 companies only 2 actually sent us the brochure we requested, we still haven’t received a newsletter from 8, and 6 email queries remain unanswered – a shocking start to any relationship. And don’t even get me started on the lack of communications post purchase (practical but boring service emails aside).
I’m fully aware that some travel companies do this exceptionally well and hats off to them, but that only makes the lack of thought by the rest even more shocking.
Buying any holiday, especially a ‘premium experience’, is not a rational decision. You buy such a holiday largely on emotions because you’ve fallen in love with the idea of it, and it’s potentially something you’ve imagined doing for years. But such emotions can be dangerous, they can turn stale far more quickly than rational thoughts.
From the moment a customer enters into a discussion with a brand, if the experience doesn’t match up to the huge expectations, then sun, beaches and ruins don’t matter – the dream starts to be destroyed and so does the love.
So here are some thoughts about the key stages.
The initial customer service you receive is a crucial first step in building the foundations of a relationship. Starting from the first interaction with the travel company, communications need to start to personalise the brand and give the customer emotional ownership of their purchase. It’s not just about buying ‘a holiday’, it’s about buying ‘my holiday’.
BUT while doing that, never forget the basics.
- Talk and act like you care, and be proactive (one company during some exploratory conversations called me at 9.30 in the evening, hugely apologetic for calling so late but he was excited as he had a fantastic idea that he wanted to run past me – he got my booking and I have recommended him to multiple friends since)
- If you claim to have a newsletter, send it (many don’t)
- If a brochure is requested, send it (many don’t)
- If a customer sends you an email, reply (many don’t)
But it’s once the holiday has been booked that the positive reinforcement has to kick in (The higher the price the greater the possibility of destination post-purchase dissonance). The brand can’t become pedestrian, and just reinforce things like ‘reliability’ – these attributes should be a given. At every turn, brands need to reinforce the magic and ‘keep the emotions alive’.
- Build excitement with itineraries (not just dull facts, but add ‘smells and colours’)
- Testimonials from previous visitors, restaurant/day trip recommendations etc. can provide vital social proof
- Trip countdowns to build excitement and anticipation – maintaining emotional engagement, and discussion with friends
- Every interaction with a consumer is a moment of truth where the magic can be maintained or lost, the options are endless
The term travel CRM is certainly not glamorous, but it is crucial. What’s more important than managing a relationship with a valuable customer when that relationship is your most important asset? A premium travel brand’s biggest sales tool is a happy customer – helping them retain the thrill of finally visiting their dream destination, using their emotional ‘travel currency’ to ‘bore’ their friends over the years, and being inspired for their next trip, is simply priceless for your brand.
- Welcoming travelers home – creating a firm link between the warm feelings associated with their holiday and your brand
- Inspiring with possible next destinations (using what we know about them to make them relevant)
- Reflect life-stages – e.g. If I booked a honeymoon with you, remember my anniversary (I’m still amazed that having booked mine with a well-known luxury travel company just over 2 years ago, I’ve never received a single communication from them since)
Keep your customers engaged and they’ll love their holiday and ‘you’ forever, eulogise about it to everyone, and be far more likely to buy again (with your help and inspiration). Don’t do this, and you miss out on customers, risk them remembering the holiday but not who they booked with, getting their inspiration elsewhere – all of which leads to dropping sales numbers, increased cost per sale and a very annoyed CEO.
If you’d like to hear more about about how BURN’s Proven Performance Suite will drive better emotional engagement with your brand please let us know.