Guest Post: Turn data detective to pan for customer insight gold

Guest Post: Turn data detective to pan for customer insight gold

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Release the power of the data you have on your customers, says Michael Collins of Travelosophy and Robert Da Re of Dolphin Dynamics

As we stated in our last article, there is often uncertainty among travel companies as to what CRM is and what it can mean to their business.

To recap, CRM is not technology, but a business strategy designed to ensure companies get to know more about their customers; so that they can manage retention, increase the customer’s value to the business and improve the cost effectiveness of marketing.

This is typically demonstrated through a move towards “1 to 1” communications and ensuring that staff (appear to) have a good level of knowledge of the customer, in order to fully engage.

The first step is determining how appropriate CRM is for your organisation and how ready you are to take it on. This can be achieved by posing some very basic questions about your business. See how your business fares:

Firstly, is operational data held in more than one repository?

More often than not the answer is yes; data can be held in a back office system, a reservations system, a finance system and often countless spreadsheets and even in the heads of your staff. Thus stored away in silos meaning that no-one in the company has a full 360 degree picture of the customer.

Next, do your contacts always only receive relevant communications?

Many organisations continue to send out the same promotional material to every one of their customers irrespective of their preferences, behaviour, level of spend, age or profile.

Having the ability to record and track a customer’s activity – both enquiries and bookings – will enable you to segment and select customers by key criteria so that you can send the right message to the right person at the right time.

It also means that your customers will not be turned off your brand because they are no longer being bombarded with material from you.

When determining how to proceed with a CRM strategy, consider these 10 points:

  • It is vital to have buy-in from top management

  • It is essential to have buy-in and involvement from all process owners and other stakeholders

  • Understand how the company culture will need to change to become more data aware and customer centric

  • Undertake a gap analysis, comparing the data required to achieve your commercial objectives with what data your staff currently acquire – be that ‘data detective’

  • Implement a data ‘health check’ to determine the quality and value to the business of the data you already have and what improvements on process are required

  • Hold regular review sessions during the various stages of development

  • Feedback from all affected internal and external parties must be obtained and considered – test the strategy

  • Do not expect to implement a CRM strategy without potentially revising supporting business processes

  • Train your staff in the use of data and the benefits to be derived from acquiring and applying valid customer and prospect information Recruit the services of an experienced consultant who will assist in leveraging the benefits of your existing technology and provide the specialist training and mentor you through the process

So how many of your customers are being regularly sent everything while perhaps others get nothing? Do you, in fact, know exactly what each of your customers has been sent? Can you see a communication and response history for any contact?

Travel businesses are luckier than many other sectors. They have data on their customers and their customers’ enquiries and purchases and so can derive tremendous benefits from analysing these vast amounts of data, uncovering hidden nuggets of opportunity among their data, once they know how to go through it systematically and realise the effect on profitability.

This data is often to be found in their back-office systems and if collected rigorously and in a consistent manner becomes pure gold.

For example, some back-office systems support the capture of customer preferences and special interests so you can create targeted mailing lists for marketing campaigns. As well as this they record the source of bookings to track and report on responses, to help you evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns and ROI.

Some back-office suppliers also offer HTML email communications solutions enabling you to generate newsletters and other email communications directly from their technology platform to streamline workflows and activities.

They also usually generate the key pieces of collateral that every customer reads – the booking confirmation, itinerary or invoice, providing you with a powerful opportunity to communicate relevant offers to existing customers based on their previous travel purchases.

It’s also possible to generate follow-up communications – for example ‘Welcome Home” greetings automatically generated from the back-office system a few days after your customer returns from a trip – powerfully promoting loyalty and repeat business at a very low incremental marketing cost.

This may all be possible from your existing back-office technology if you are consistently capturing the required information. So you need to ask yourself if all your staff are collecting the same level of detailed data? And are they aware of the need to enter it correctly, in the right fields and in the right format?

This is why data strategy is so important. Often there is the opportunity to collect information from customers as a function of addressing an enquiry or taking a reservation.

However, all too often, this information is either not inputted or else entered into a notes field rather than the correct field on the system.

How many of your sales agents will enter the customer’s date of birth or mobile telephone number, for example, in the notes field on a booking rather than in the appropriate pre-set fields on the customer record?

It may take an extra couple of seconds to find and complete the field, but when the marketers want to segment the customers by age, or send a message by SMS they will have a very valuable, immediately accessible selection and delivery criteria.

So another question to ask yourself is are you collecting the right data? Become a “data detective” and start piecing the clues together to build a profile for creating and maintaining a relationship to drive retention and upsell.

It is more than a myth that it can be up to five times more expensive to recruit a new customer than to sell to an existing one.

But don’t forget to include prospects – they are key for growth without costing you a great deal of money to identify. A prospect is only a customer who has not yet purchased from you. Why should they be excluded from receiving relevant offers and other communications that would nurture their relationship and turn them into profitable customers?

Overall you must recognise the value of the customer information you can hold and that using it can be part of the marketing strategy. Release the power that it represents for customer retention, increased sales and profitability.

You can start today, often without the need for new technology – rather exploit your investment in existing technology by using the functionality that you already have in your systems to support these initiatives.

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