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How to stay relevant and build up customer loyalty in the digital age

Travel agents provide reliable support and offer invaluable expertise that are not easily replicated online – two of many reasons why many travelers today still rely on them to book their trips. With all the talk about personalization these days, how can travel agents take it up a notch and adopt a customer-centric approach for their travelers?

While self-booking has become increasingly popular today, many consumers still depend on travel agencies to plan and manage their vacations. Beyond time and convenience, travel agents play a crucial role in the customer’s entire travel journey – from pre- to post-trip. From offering valuable advice on tour programs and destinations to providing 24-hour overseas emergency assistance, travel agencies hone a wealth of knowledge and expertise when it comes to planning the perfect trip.

With the overwhelming influx of travel information made available to the customer today, it is imperative for travel agents to differentiate themselves by providing elements of personalization during customer interactions – both online and in-store.

Staying relevant amid stiff competition in this digital era, however, is no easy task for travel agencies. In order to survive and thrive in the travel industry, a personalization strategy must be prioritized.

Travel agencies must be able to leverage technology to increase operational efficiency and most importantly, deliver personalization throughout the customer travel journey. Business owners must be able to utilize data more effectively from across all channels to derive concise preferences of their customer.

Read here to find out why it is important for travel businesses to offer personalized travel experiences

First Things First: Know which stage of personalization you are in

As detailed in our Personalization report, there are five stages of personalization. These stages are outlined in the chart below.

Read the report to learn more about each stage.

If your agency falls within the Capture and Use stages, you should ensure that your customer data is consistently collected. With the data gathered, you can then track and segment your customers into smaller groups based on different criteria.

Read here to find out what the four distinct Asian traveler types are.

If your agency is in the Share stage, this means that you have successfully captured customer profile data and shared that data with other systems (such as online booking tools or CRM systems) to engage with the traveler in a meaningful way.

Lastly, if your agency falls within Report and Predict stages, it means that you are harnessing customer data to build the best experience for your customers throughout their travel journey. By continually learning about your customers, you are most likely to be successful at predicting their buying patterns.

Utilizing data to provide personalization
The customer travel journey can be broken down and categorized into pre-trip, trip booking and post-trip. For each of these stages, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Pre-trip: How do you recognize a customer when they call? How does that impact the service you provide?
  • Trip booking: How does your knowledge of the customer influence the booking?
  • Post-trip: What type of follow-up do you do?

Here are some recommendations on how you can personalize your customer’s travel experience.

Pre-trip

  • Recognize and segment your travelers:
    –  Are they new or existing customers? Are they corporate or leisure travelers? Are they looking for a luxury tour or traveling on a budget?
  • Understand their experiences with you
    – Take note of the travelers’ past trips and inquiries, as well as their expressed interests
  • Know what is relevant to them
    – Look at their demographics, past shopping/purchase behaviors and expressed or implied interests
  • Recommend products
    -Send relevant travel offers focused on a destination or product
    -Leverage this during one-on-one interactions with your travelers – “I saw this promotion, and thought of you”
    – Let every interaction strengthen the relationship between your brand and the traveler

Trip booking

  • Use customer profile data to:
    – Customize point of sale display / itinerary based on what is relevant to the traveler and their corporation
    – Streamline the agent workflow
    – Enhance the customer interaction experience during shopping and booking transactions

Are you getting sufficient insights from your customer profile data and acting on them?

Post-trip

  • Send personalized messages
    – During special occasions e.g. birthday, anniversaries, etc.
    – Customer notifications e.g. update your passport, etc.
  • Gather customer feedback
    – Ask questions e.g. what they did they like about the trip? What are they interested in for their next trip?

via GIPHY
Gathering and listening to customer feedback will help to drive customer engagement

  • Conduct data mining
    – Analyze your customers and categorize them into segments (again)
    – For corporate traveler – manage the relationship between both the traveler and the corporation

Watch the recording of the webinar with Travel Weekly for more personalization best practices

Travel’s limitations with personalization

While most agencies understand that it is essential to take their customers’ preferences seriously, their effort on personalization is however, not without challenges.

Infrequent travel makes it difficult for travel companies to obtain sufficient customer behavioral data and determine actionable preferences, not to mention that most customers remain anonymous online. Unlike companies that own the end-to-end experience of their products, travel companies usually find it challenging to “see the big picture” because vacations or business trips often involve shopping and purchase activities across a large number of channels.

Nonetheless, it is crucial that travel companies continue to drive personalization through what touch points they have with the traveler. In this digital age, the adoption of technology will help enable the possibility of better personalization.

For instance, companies that embrace technology may be able to better “connect” traveler’s preferences, purchase patterns and other relevant information, thereby making it easier to deliver on customers’ specific wants and needs. The ultimate goal will be to leverage collected data to automate personalization and drive customer conversions.

 

Store, access and update customer information with ease

Do you know that Sabre Profiles is a relational database profile system that enables you to easily store, access and update customer information? With our robust profiling capabilities, you can serve your customers better by tailoring to their specific needs and creating the best travel experiences for them. Read more about Sabre Profiles.

For more insights on what personalization looks like in the travel landscape and how to use it to craft experiences for each individual traveler, download the personalization report NOW It’s Personal.