Today’s travelers crave one-of-a-kind experiences and moments that truly stand out. They also love the convenience and ease of technology and want to use it on their own terms – whether it be from an app on their phone, computer or social media.
How does the travel industry meet the demand for the touch of a caring human being with the convenience of technology? It begins with realizing that while technology creates opportunity and ease, using it to humanize experiences is a process that requires innovation mixed with personality.
“At Capital Vacations, we have made it our number one priority to create quality vacations. We are investing not just money, but time, effort, and strategy into technology and content,” said Travis Bary, Chief Operating Officer at Capital Vacations. “Some of the innovations we are deploying will make it easy and enjoyable for guests to connect with Capital Vacations and our resorts: from adding a central reservations center to partnering with a top-performing CRM (Customer Relation Management) software, Salesforce, are focused on the complete customer journey – from booking, to the vacation experience, and post-stay.”
Bary shared insight on how Capital Vacations is using technology to create better experiences, and how the industry can make an effort to truly meet customers’ needs.
Opportunity in Discreet Details
There are opportunities to enhance customer experiences at every turn; you just have to look close enough. For example, Disney World is renowned as a magical place. When visitors are asked why it’s so wonderful, the most common responses might be the characters, colorful rides and other obvious experiences. However, founder Walt Disney was innovative in finding opportunity in the small details.
Walt knew that a clean amusement park was vital to customer satisfaction, and litter could be a problem, so he studied parks and discovered that people would rarely walk more than 30 steps without littering. Consequently, he strategically placed trash cans and staffing specific to this detailed research. He did not just say “let’s increase the trash cans.” Instead, he studied exactly what would be the perfect frequency of cans.
What does Disney World’s trash can placement teach us about using technology to humanize an experience? It shows that the simplest and most discreet details matter. Take a look at your technology, and you might say “We have online bookings.” But if you investigate and track exactly how many clicks it takes to go from your home page to booking, you might find pieces that could run better, quicker or be more visually pleasing.
Small changes can impact experiences in big ways. Think of how much better a booking experience would be if you could reduce the page visits and numbers of clicks by two or three. In a world growing accustomed to Amazon’s “One-Click Ordering,” the more ease you build into customers’ digital experiences, the happier they will be. Customers won’t recognize a reduced number of clicks, but they will recognize that they just booked their vacation with ease.
Creating Consistency & Efficiency in Customer Service
Technology has added more places for customers to connect with resorts and management companies. Where there used to be solely front desks and land line telephones, there are now mobile phones, emails, chat boxes, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, comment cards, texts and more. It’s vital that customers receive the same level of service if they choose to contact you on Facebook or via a phone call or chat box.
According to Bary, the Capital Vacations call center connects with customers via phone, email, website chat boxes and even social media, and tracks and analyzes all of these touchpoints to ensure that the customer service level is positive, helpful, efficient and consistent.
“We’ve implemented technology to establish, track and measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enhance the customer service we provide in our call center,” Bary said. “By establishing these we are able to constantly improve the level of service we offer, engage in ongoing training, ensure consistent experiences and help our customers quickly and easily at a quality level.”
The technology initiatives they have added not only assure guests receive streamlined customer service, but it’s also personalized by tracking all touchpoints with a customer. For example, say a guest has spoken with customer service agents and expressed an interest in Myrtle Beach. The next time they call, the agent can see this and tell them about specific deals in Myrtle Beach, or they could receive emails fine-tuned to the interests they have previously shown.
Connecting with Customers through Personalization
Technology provides resorts and management companies with opportunities to connect their resorts or vacation ownership products with the right customers.
In the past, choosing a resort for your vacation meant driving down the road looking for “Vacancy” signs, but now consumers have the entire internet competing for their attention.
Smart companies can use technology to personalize messages to get their resorts in front of the consumers who are seeking their products in real time. Thanks to Google, you can create an ad with a photo of your resort’s amazing indoor pool to be shown to consumers who are at that exact moment searching for resorts with indoor pools.
There are also location-based opportunities for OPC efforts with technologies such as geo-fencing. Let’s say you operate an OPC booth at an attraction, and getting customers is dependent on them walking past your booth and showing interest. With geo-fencing you can show any consumers currently at that attraction an ad with an offer and hook that incentivizes them to seek out the booth.
Travel is a life-changing experience, and the process of planning it is closer to people’s hearts than almost any other transaction they will make. By adopting technology and adding personal touches, companies can humanize travel planning experiences enough to create business opportunities, while also delivering memorable and pleasant moments to guests.
Kelley Ellert is the Director of Marketing for Capital Vacations, one of the largest timeshare management companies in North America with 71 properties for which she oversees the marketing and communication efforts. She resides in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where Capital Vacations corporate headquarters are located.