Travel CRM should not be this hard:
“Our gift to you as a loyal customer.”
“Our holidays are now reduced by 10% for the next 5 days.”
Hang on! I am allegedly an important loyal customer, I have booked three holidays with you in the last five years and that has earned me the right to spend more money with you? Really? This was someone’s idea of loyalty?
BUT I guess I should feel privileged, at least I received something. Cards on the table I am a travel/holiday nut, I live for my trips and and spend half my time researching my next trip – I have travelled with many holiday companies – and rarely get so much as an email beyond an automated booking confirmation.
If brands are treating loyal customers this way, just think how they are treating prospects or first-time purchasers. Sadly, this is a common theme in the travel industry. Surely there’s a better way.
That way is engagement. Increasing emotional engagement will increase CRM effectiveness.
To leverage travel customer and prospect bases profitably into the future, we need to inspirationally engage and build the dream, rather than just instantly sell the ticket. Buying a holiday is not a rational decision made purely on cost and availability– it is largely based on emotion. You don’t buy a holiday because you ‘need it’ (as much as it may feel otherwise sometimes), you buy a holiday because ‘want it’ and you ‘love it’, it’s potentially a dream trip that you may have imagined doing for years.
The first purchase experience is a crucial first step in building the foundations of a customer relationship, but once a sale is made, there’s post-purchase dissonance to overcome and engagement to maintain. The holiday build-up can last months and brands need to reinforce the purchase decision, so customers don’t become disengaged.
From the point of purchase, communications need to personalise the brand, give customers ‘ownership‘ of their holiday, and build excitement for the trip. It’s not about buying ‘a holiday’, it’s about looking forward to ‘my holiday’.
No travel brand can afford to become predictable, generic or pedestrian, and every turn needs to reinforce core values and messages, and ‘keep the magic alive’. Post-holiday this ‘magic’ is even more essential to maintain the relationship and drive all-important repeat bookings – call it CRM, call it retention – either way, whilst not glamorous, it’s crucial – relationships with customers are your most important asset.
Travel engagement is greatly impacted by customer perception of ‘closeness’ to the holiday experience.
- Consumers make positive purchase decisions when emotionally engaged
- For holiday companies this engagement is directly linked to the feeling of ‘proximity’ to the holiday experience
- This proximity or ‘emotional closeness’ plays a key role in the reception to comms and our ability to drive sales
- Travel CRM must stretch the curve, lengthen the period of ‘closeness’, and therefore time spent positively engaging with the brand
Seven tips for building emotional CRM engagement with your brand
- Create CRM alignment in your organisation
- Companywide agreement of what CRM means
- For CRM to be fully customer centric and engaging, it must interface with all departments – not just the ‘CRM’ team
- Crucially, agree KPI’s. Is CRM about tenure, revenue, advocacy or all three for your company?
- Ensure you have the right tech in place to deliver your requirements
- Having a CRM tech solution with the right capabilities is key. There are many systems available. Compare and contrast solutions – looking at the functionality, flexibility, future-proofing and value they offer. Importantly also consider the capability to highly personalise and automate to build greater engagement.
- Make sure your CRM communications always add value to the customer
- Identifying a fair “value exchange” is vital to maintain engagement. What does the customer gain from agreeing to receive your communications?
- There are a variety of ways of adding such value
- Access to unique travel offers – incentives / competitions etc (for example first to click through receives a luxury weekend skiing break for two.
- The CRM programme itself – inspirational next destination content from people like you, events (Journey Latin America recently sent me tickets to a travel exhibition), ‘money can’t buy experiences’ such meeting brand ambassadors, and so on.
- Utilise data and insight to build relevance
- Lack of insight is one of the most common mistakes in travel CRM
- Use relevant customer information in your communications, it’s not about your brand, it’s about the recipient
- Make people feel special and unique. Know them, what they buy and what they want (Know their focus – destinations, experiences, culture, escape, or food etc) and feed that back in your communications to ‘sell’ by relevance rather than price
- Use progressive profiling, to enable deeper personalisation and stronger relationships
- Build relationships over time through journey planning
- You can’t expect customers to react instantaneously to a single communication
- Communications should be thought of in a series and take customers on a ‘journey’ – layering information over time
- All of your customer journeys – from welcome to brochure request, from booking to post holiday – must tell a story and take recipients with you. Talk to recipients about what they’d like to hear about, not just what you want to tell them.
- Ensure best-in-class execution
- A lack of investment in the execution of your communications will have a negative effect on your results.
- Make good use of engagement and responsive marketing techniques. (We deploy an Engagement Framework to ensure this happens)
- Interaction is vital – Video content, live in destination weather widgets, countdowns, VR, click to reveal – can all be used to drive destination engagement
- Go beyond expectations – it’s harder and harder to surprise – but the benefits you get if you do are well worth it.
- Measure and optimise all the time
- CRM isn’t a one-off strategic development – ongoing learning and iteration are essential
- Test and measure everything you do to allow constant optimisation
So, put simply the choice is yours:
‘Sell’ to your loyal customers and become just another travel company,
Keep your customers happy, excited, engaged and always provide added value. In that way, they’re more likely to repeat book and eulogise about you to their friends and family.
I know which I prefer.
Client Services Director