richard evansIn the travel industry, customer service is always a key topic. When people are looking to do business with travel and tourism companies they expect a first-class, personalised experience - the industry lives and dies by it. Customer service must be the main priority for all travel providers looking to build long term relationships and loyalty with their customers. This must cover all aspects of a holiday – booking, flights, hotels, car hire, activities, the list goes on. And with the ever growing mobile sector, many consumers are increasingly expecting to be able to do all of this, and more, on the go.

Boost your loyal customer base
Marketers can and should use email communications to drive these brand and customer conversations. These conversations have the potential to blossom into extended, loyal relationships, something which is so important in travel. This is because it is one of the few sectors where quality of experience often trumps price, so creating a personable and strong relationship online as well as offline dramatically improves a travel operator's customer service.

With this in mind, the first step is to create an email campaign that is personally tailored to each recipient. First impressions go a long way, which is why top-tier hotels greet guests by offering to help carry their luggage, asking how they can make their stay better, and providing an immaculately clean room complete with a mint on the pillow. Although very traditional, this is a simple concept that can be easily adapted to online channels by thanking a subscriber for opting-in, reiterating the content and frequency of messaging and linking to content online that is important and relevant. Getting a relationship off to a good start will allow it to develop and grow, instead of ending it before it's even begun.

Go the extra mile
To further ingratiate a brand with a customer, the content must be human and personable. Remember that travelling is fun, and this must be reflected in the email content. Use customer testimonials, employee photos, and helpful educational content to create a dynamic and interesting read. For example, Air New Zealand populates each message with a photo of a flight crew member who will be on the recipient's specific flight. Passenger reaction has been incredibly positive, with some customers even printing out the emails and showing them to the featured flight crew member while on board. These pre-flight emails also include customised imagery such as local cultural events and a weather update alongside the usual flight details. Consequently they have an average open rate of 69% and an average unique click rate of 38%, both well above industry averages. Such messaging shows a willingness to go the extra mile – an essential trait in a travel operator.

This personalisation does not have to stop at pre-holiday communications. Up-selling of services on arrival can be achieved with location-based marketing, enabling companies to deliver highly relevant content to customers based on their destination. For example, if the customer's previous online activity has revealed an interest in spa holidays, near-by spas owned by the operator should be highlighted on arrival. This not only deepens the customer relationship with the help of personalised content, but also provides an extra source of revenue. Also, consider sending content that isn't sales related but instead contains helpful tips and advice about a traveller's destination, such as highly rated restaurants or a five-day weather forecast. Recipients will appreciate the effort that has gone into sending relevant and personalised travel tips and may well share them with friends. People love discussing their holidays on social networks, so this is a highly effective way of recruiting new subscribers and brand advocates to your messaging programme. To further develop this, incorporate a strong call to action or an incentive to share. This adds the potential to exponentially grow the reach of a marketing campaign and the brand responsible.

Such sharing naturally comes with good customer service. With social media and travelling commonly intertwined, it is of upmost importance for travel service providers to communicate with travellers on their own terms. This means transporting the typically high level of customer service expected in the travel industry onto social media, email and location-based marketing to create a truly rewarding and all-encompassing travel experience for customers.

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