Building customer loyalty is a surefire way to create sustainable growth for your travel agency business. According to Gartner Inc., 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. Lee Research Inc. estimates that acquiring a new customer will cost five times more than retaining an existing one! These numbers show that improving your customer retention rates will increase your revenues and help your business flourish.
An added benefit is that loyal customers are great spokespeople for your business - they will spread good reviews and encourage new customers to use your services, too.
Here are six top tips ways travel agencies can build customer loyalty:
1. Personalize services and offer relevant products
Establishing a close relationship with your customers is a key part of building customer loyalty. This is one way in which traditional travel agents have the edge over an online booking engine.
When meeting a client, collect information such as communication preferences, so you can offer them a personalized experience. For example, if a customer says that they like to receive phone calls in the evening, adhere to this preference. Offering this level of personalization helps build a lasting agent-client relationship, which will keep clients coming back to you for their future travel needs.
You can also use customer information to offer relevant services or tours that they might not have known about, but that are highly interesting for them. This important technique shows your customers that you are listening to them, in-tune with their desires, and paying attention to their individual needs, requests and interests. Customers will appreciate the effort you have put in to satisfy them and they will consider you to be more like a knowledgeable consultant that they depend on, which will make them more likely to continue doing business with you.
2. Provide top customer service
To build loyalty, you must provide excellent customer service from the moment your client contacts you. Before booking, respond rapidly to questions and provide personal, relevant answers. If any itinerary changes occur after booking, let customers know as soon as possible.
Continue offering support during the course of their vacation. Check in to ensure your client is pleased with their experience. This also gives you a chance to iron out any problems and leave your customer with a positive feeling about your business and to make them feel like you are there for them if they need you.
Once your client has returned from a trip, solicit feedback. The more a customer feels important and cared for, the more of a connection they will feel towards your business (and the more likely they will be to tell their peers about you!)
3. Acknowledge loyal clients
Don’t forget to show appreciation for your returning customers. Offer creative loyalty programs and rewards to people booking subsequent trips through your agency. You can also invite loyal clients to events and even honor them through special awards.
Intrepid Travel is an international provider of local group adventures with an effective loyalty program. Customers who have made nine previous bookings with them get the tenth one free, as well as a special ‘Intrepid Legend’ status.
Another way of making loyal clients feel important is by featuring their testimonials and reviews on your website. Customers will enjoy seeing themselves as the ‘face’ of your company.
These methods develop a community feeling that, in turn, creates a sense of allegiance to your company, boosting customer retention rates and referrals.
4. Share tips and expert advice
Another way of building a personal connection with customers is through sharing relevant and useful information. For example, if a new hotel opens in a customer’s favorite destination, go out of your way to contact them and let them know about it. This will not only ‘remind’ them about you, but it will make them feel like you care about them. Again, it will put you in the position as ‘trusted advisor’ – someone your clients can depend on for their travel needs.
You can also share expert advice in conjunction with a customer’s current trip. Sharing personal recommendations of restaurants and events, based on your previous knowledge of your customers’ preferences, can be a great way to instill in them that you are an integral part of their travel experience.
5. Use social media channels
Social media channels are an important pat of the travel industry. 76% of travelers post vacation photos to a social media network and 55% like Facebook pages specific to a vacation.
Use social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, to engage with customers directly and market your business. Make sure to answer comments quickly with helpful replies, to build a reputation for sterling customer service.
Travel agents can also use platforms like Twitter to post relevant updates in real time. For example, you can post weather reports, flight delays, or relevant traffic information.
KLM Airline is known for their fantastic social campaigns across many social media platforms. One famous example is the ‘KLM surprise’. A team of people researched the social profiles of customers waiting for flights, so that they could give each of them a surprise gift before boarding. Of course, these happy customers tweeted about the experience, giving KLM a huge reputation boost.
6. Make the payment process convenient, easy, and secure
The first step towards getting loyal customers is to satisfy your customers. Increase customer satisfaction by making the entire booking process convenient, easy, and secure.
For the ultimate convenience, you should accept online and mobile payments through a wide variety of payment methods, including credit cards, mobile money, and ewallets. Then, your customers can always choose to pay using their own preferred method.
In addition, make the payment process seamless for international customers, by allowing them to pay in their local currency, through dynamic currency conversion.
Security is another important aspect of the payment process. Customers will trust you more if you can show them that their payment information is safe in your hands. The best way to achieve this is by working with a PCI DSS Level 1 certified payment service provider. PCI DSS certification shows that the PSP meets high standards when it comes to protecting customer details. This will give your customers the confidence to do business with you again and again.
Every stage of the agent-client relationship presents opportunities to build customer loyalty. Listen to your customers and provide a convenient, valuable service to build customer loyalty and see your revenues increase.
Want more tips on how to build customer loyalty and get back market share from OTAs? Download our free ebook "The Travel Agent's Guide to Surviving in the OTA Era".