If you are making a purchase, what type of customer are you?
Most people tend to fall into one of two camps. Those who would rather purchase through a website, app or another form or technology (a transactional buyer) and those who enjoy the interaction with other people and like to be able to ask questions (a relational buyer).
Gone are the days of a business deciding how they will interact with their customers. These days the customer holds the power and it’s up to the customer to decide if and how they want to engage with your brand.
And this is where tech comes in. Digital touch points need to be able to support BOTH types of customers in their full journey with your business. The challenge for technologists is how you apply tech to meet the expectations of both customer types at the same time whilst also establishing a solid, trusting and mutually beneficial relationship.
The bottom line is that if a brand is not interacting with them the right way, the customer will simply walk away. However, if they get the right information, at the right time and in the right way, they are far more likely to go ahead and engage with you. They get the service or product they want and you get their business – it’s a win, win situation.
CRM is vital here as the insight it holds bridges the gap between the two types of interaction and ties together the end-to-end customer experience. In order to flourish, brands need to consider the lifetime value of their customers, not just a one-off purchase. This is the crucial information that every business needs to know – what does your customer like and dislike? What did they search and not book? Do they always use an app to book and not the phone or do they prefer a retail experience? or do they engage via all three channels?
For me, the real value is knowing your customer and then using this knowledge going forward. CRM helps to empower brands and enables them to stand back from the single booking and look at the customer’s entire journey with you. This vital information can then be used to ensure that you are able to target them in their preferred way, with the right products at the right time and in turn help your business grow.
As a tech specialist in the travel sector, it is fair to say that the industry is pretty good at using an omni-channel approach up to the point when the booking is made, but like many other industries there is more travel companies can do to interact after that and improve the customer experience.
Pre-pandemic, once a holiday booking was made it was rare to have to make changes. Since Covid hit, thousands of holidays and trips have had to be moved to different dates, destinations amended or trips cancelled. For many travel businesses, this process has been very manual and typically ties up valuable human resource on tasks that should be automated.
For example, amendments and cancellations are tasks that customers should be able to instigate themselves via a reservations platform – features that are at best limited in capability or at worst not available at all. If relational customers want to call up they can, but transactional buyers need the option to do it quickly and simply online also.
It’s important to remember that in the travel arena, making changes to bookings can be a real challenge as there is a multi-layered supply chain with many different components and suppliers making up the booking journey. The travel tech landscape is complex and there are some real underlying reasons why it is hard to action. We know that different types of airline technology make it difficult for booking systems (GDS) to provide consistent flight booking experiences, then you have to add in ticketing, accommodation, transfers, activities, lounge passes, parking etc, supplied by a myriad of suppliers across the globe – all of which have multiple booking systems of varying quality and capability!
However, a customer booking a holiday will not understand the tech challenges behind their booking experience, nor should they need to. So, travel businesses need to invest in products that simplify this process and allow them to free up the manpower to focus on other areas of their business. The challenge travel businesses have is to find a balance between offering a ‘self-service’ transactional model that puts it all on the customer to make changes, and providing a relational model that uses expensive people on the phone to do it for them.
The travel industry isn’t alone – many other sectors have their own challenges, and it is important that if they are going to thrive, they look at their processes from a customer point of view and ultimately aim to achieve an easy, seamless booking and after sales journey.
For travel, the pandemic has shown us that things need to change. It won’t be a revolution though, it’ll be an evolution – it’ll take time to get there and we see a CRM as a key foundation to supporting that.
At Inspiretec we’ve worked with travel brands to bring together their data to drive how they tailor the omni-channel customer experience, ensuring they cater for both the relational and transactional customer.
About the Author
Richard Baker is Chief Commercial Officer Inspiretec. The company provides end-to-end digital solutions for the travel industry. It brings best of breed technology together under one roof for travel providers, tourism organisations and tour operators.