Data and the customer experience
Way back in 2013, Forrester Research dropped us all into the ‘Age of the Customer’ – a world where the consumer is in control of their own destiny and that the new battleground is around winning and retaining customer loyalty.
Building on this concept, we see that brands like Airbnb and Uber have built on this by effectively creating the ‘Age of the Interface’ – a whole business proposition on the back of exceptionally slick, easy to use and near-frictionless search, cost and book experiences.
However, delivering an amazing interface is a level playing field – throw enough time and money at it and anyone can create a platform that delivers a user experience better than yours, so it quickly becomes less of a USP and more of a necessary evil.
Whilst we’re all hopeful that Boris’s announcement will see a strong second half to the year we cannot ignore that as an industry we are bruised and much leaner than before we entered the pandemic.
To support the bounce back, we as an industry need to look at how we manage our own efficiency and scalability… and technology is a great lever we can use to help us return stronger and fitter than BC (Before Corona).
Bringing this back to customer experience (or ‘CX’ as we love an acronym!) the key and often untapped asset that most travel businesses are sitting on is their customer data.
To frame this thinking a little more, the question all travel businesses should be asking themselves is how they can use their customer data, with some sensitive application of technology, to address both the efficiency and customer experience demands placed upon them.
The three fundamental steps for success
1. Find your customer DNA – their socio demographic profile, their past quotes and/ or bookings, their contact preferences, their travel preferences, their campaign response history, their social media footprint, their activity with all of your contact channels (call centre, website, chat, social etc), complaints, survey responses etc.
2. Find the data silos – your customer DNA will be held in many different data silos - reservations platforms, selling systems, email systems, website eCommerce systems, web analytics, chatbots, social media sentiment tools, email marketing platforms, complaint management systems, feedback tools, financial systems etc.
3. Create a single customer view – now you’ve mapped out the DNA of your customer and found where it is stored it’s about bringing it together, creating a single customer view that can be used to drive the application of this data. It’s not necessarily about consolidation, keeping the data in separate systems is fine, but tying it together is the objective here.
Application is key
With some solid single customer view foundations in place, how can you use this to make a difference to your CX whilst also boosting operational efficiency?
1. Digital personalisation – use your customer DNA data to tailor how to engage with them via web, mobile, social and email channels. Show aspirational product detail or content that matches their likes whilst suppressing what they dislike. Learn from their interaction (what works and what doesn’t) and refine.
2. Empowered humans – put customer data at the fingertips of your team so they can treat every customer differently. Enrich calls with key customer information that will allow the agent to tailor their approach. Flag up key customer preferences, past complaints or social sentiment during a quote/ booking scenario to save time and allow the agent to add value elsewhere.
3. Self-service – recognise that not all customers want to speak to people and that you’re giving them back valuable time by providing self-service channels to perform basic tasks like adding passenger information, paying a balance, upgrading a flight or adding an extra to a booking.
4. Contact automation – you don’t need to sacrifice the personal touch through building out a robust automated (or semi-automated) customer contact plan. Content of post-booking, pre-departure, in resort and return home contact can be heavily tailored using your Customer DNA, even down to if they’d rather receive an email or they’d prefer a call from a human!
5. Create focus – you can use the data you have to identify where you are strong with your customers and where you need to try harder. Finding patterns in complaints or trends in customer satisfaction or surveys can identify problems but also drive business change to allow you to nip issues in the bud.
6. Drive sales – building on the reactive angle of point 5 above, you can use similar segmentation techniques to identify your hot spots – the sweet spot of a customer who returns time and time again or has a propensity to respond well to upsells during a booking or requires a re-targeted special offer to get them over the line.
7. Build loyalty – customer loyalty is a function of empathy, recognition and trust. You can profile this by analysing your customer DNA and build a personalised rewards or incentive scheme. On the flip side when perhaps you’re missing one of the elements needed to achieve loyalty you can identify the gap and do something about it.
You may have some or all of these covered, but if you haven’t, they can be used to build out a plan that can result in incremental gains in both customer satisfaction and overall business performance.
Ultimately success in your customer experience strategy is around using your customer data with some very sensitive use of technology. Customers want this, we as a sector know we have some way to go, it’s just about taking some small steps forward and putting the theory into practice.
If you’d like to know more please get in touch, we’ve two white papers we’ve produced on Customer Experience in travel that we’ll be happy to share and we’d be delighted to provide a zero obligation trial of our CRM product that could kick start your own single customer view - click here for more information