Building customer loyalty is crucial for the success of any business, but it is especially important for companies operating in the travel industry. With a wide range of options available to travellers, travel agencies and consultants need to create and maintain strong relationships with their customers.
What is customer loyalty, and why do you need it?
Customer loyalty refers to the behaviour of customers who consistently choose to purchase goods or services from a particular company over time, despite the presence of competitors and alternative options. Loyal customers who have a strong emotional connection to a brand are more likely to support it, resulting in word-of-mouth marketing, repeat purchases, and an overall increase in revenue.
There are several reasons why customer loyalty is vital for businesses. Firstly, it drives repeat business. This is particularly important in today’s highly competitive travel sector, where customers have many options to choose from and can easily switch to a competitor if they are not satisfied with a company’s products or services.
Secondly, customer loyalty leads to increased customer lifetime value. Loyal customers are more likely to continue purchasing products or services from a travel agency for a longer period, increasing the overall value that a company can derive from each customer over time.
Customer loyalty leads to positive word-of-mouth marketing. Loyal customers are keen to recommend a company’s products or services to their friends and family, which can help to attract new customers and increase brand awareness. This type of marketing is highly effective because it is based on personal recommendations from people that customers trust and is often more credible than traditional advertising.
Finally, customer loyalty can help to increase customer retention. Loyal customers are unlikely to switch to a competitor, even if they are offered incentives or discounts. Companies can save money on customer acquisition costs and focus on retaining their existing customer base, which is often more cost-effective in the long run.
Establishing customer loyalty in a virtual environment
Establishing customer loyalty in a virtual environment is becoming increasingly important as the shift towards online commerce continues. While virtual communication has benefits, it also presents unique challenges for building customer loyalty.
Online communication is characterised by its convenience, reach, and accessibility. Customers can communicate with brands from the comfort of their own homes at any time of day or night. This convenience can make online communication appealing to customers, especially those who are busy or who have demanding schedules. However, online communication also lacks the personal touch of face-to-face interaction.
In a face-to-face conversation, non-verbal cues such as body language and tone of voice can significantly influence the outcome of the interaction. In a virtual environment, these non-verbal cues are often lost or misinterpreted, leading to misunderstandings and a less positive customer experience.
Despite this challenge, virtual communication has the potential to greatly enhance customer loyalty when executed effectively. For example, online communities and forums can provide customers with a sense of community and belonging, fostering brand loyalty. Brands can also use online communication to deliver personalised customer experiences, such as targeted promotions or customised recommendations. This level of customisation can be challenging to achieve in a face-to-face environment, making it a unique advantage of virtual communication.
To establish customer loyalty in a virtual environment, brands must prioritise personal and meaningful communication. This can include regular check-ins with customers, personalised email newsletters, and chatbots to provide quick and responsive customer service. Brands can also use virtual live events and webinars to bring customers together and give them a sense of community, even in a virtual setting.
How to create a loyal customer (who will return to you every time)
The key to any successful business is fostering loyal customers who keep coming back for more. There are several ways to do this.
Understand your customers and their needs
Understanding your customers and their needs is crucial for the success of an online travel agency. By understanding what customers want, travel agencies can tailor their services to meet those needs better, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. To gain a deeper understanding of your customers, consider conducting surveys or focus groups to gather information on their travel preferences and habits. Analyse data on their past bookings and look for patterns in their behaviour, such as preferred travel dates, destination choices, and travel styles.
Additionally, staying up-to-date on industry trends and changes in customer preferences is essential. This can be done by monitoring social media and industry news sources and keeping track of customer feedback and reviews. By constantly adapting to customer needs and preferences, online travel agencies can ensure they offer their customers the best possible experience.
Always be reachable
Being contactable for customers is essential for an online travel agency as it helps to establish trust and build a strong relationship with them. Travel can be stressful and unpredictable, and customers will naturally have questions and concerns. When they know that they can reach out to the agency at any time, it helps to ease their worries and provide peace of mind.
In addition, being easily contactable can also help to resolve issues more quickly and efficiently. When customers reach out to the agency, they can provide the necessary information and receive real-time updates and support, which helps avoid any potential problems escalating. This benefits the customers and helps maintain the agency’s reputation as a reliable and trustworthy provider of travel services.
Moreover, being available to customers allows an online travel agency to collect feedback and improve its services. When customers can communicate openly with the agency, they can provide valuable insights into what they like and dislike about the services offered. This information can then be used to improve and provide a better overall experience for future customers.
Go further than just selling travel
An online travel agency requires more than just selling travel to build customer loyalty. To stand out in a competitive market, it’s important to go above and beyond and provide value to customers beyond the booking process. One way to do this is by offering personalised advice and recommendations based on their travel preferences. This helps customers plan their trips more effectively, demonstrates that the agency cares about their unique needs, and is invested in their travel experience.
Another way to build loyalty is by sharing engaging stories and travel experiences. This can be through blog posts, social media, or email newsletters. By sharing exciting and inspiring stories, the agency can foster a sense of community and connect with customers on a deeper level. It also helps to build trust and credibility, as customers see the agency as a source of trustworthy information and advice.
Always personalise your communication
Personalised communication is important for customer loyalty because it shows that a travel agency values its customers and is willing to take the time to understand their individual needs and preferences. It can take many forms, such as tailored marketing messages, customised holiday recommendations, or one-on-one customer conversations. Asking them if they have any special requests or holiday destinations in mind can build stronger relationships with customers and foster a sense of loyalty.
Customers are more likely to remain loyal to a company they feel understands them and is invested in their satisfaction.
Be flexible and adaptable
Flexibility is essential to customer loyalty for a travel agency because it allows the agency to cater to the specific needs and preferences of its customers. By offering flexible options such as changeable itineraries, customisable packages, and flexible payment plans, the agency can provide customers with a more personalised and stress-free travel experience.
Additionally, being flexible helps the agency be more responsive to unexpected changes or challenges that may arise during a customer’s trip. When customers feel like their needs are being met and that they have a supportive and trustworthy travel partner, they are more likely to return to the same travel agency for future trips and recommend it to others.
Listen to feedback and act on it
Listening to feedback and acting on it can help improve the customer experience and increase customer satisfaction. Feedback provides valuable insights into what customers like and dislike about the services the travel agency provides, allowing the agency to make necessary improvements. Acting on feedback also demonstrates to customers that the agency is committed to providing the best possible service and is responsive to their needs. A travel agency can build trust and loyalty by incorporating customer feedback, leading to increased customer retention and potential referrals.
Introduce loyalty programmes, and incentives
Loyalty programmes and incentives are key factors in enhancing customer loyalty in a travel agency. This is particularly true in an online environment where the lack of face-to-face contact can be challenging. Offering rewards and benefits to customers for their repeat business creates a sense of loyalty and encourages them to continue booking through the travel agency. You could, for example, enter repeat customers into a prize draw.
Create a sense of community
Creating a sense of community among customers of an online travel agency can help foster customer loyalty. It provides a platform for customers to connect, share experiences and offer support and advice. This builds trust and a sense of belonging, encouraging customers to return to the agency for future travel needs.
Host events where customers can meet in order to build relationships and create a sense of community. Invite clients to attend events such as travel shows and fairs where they can learn more about a location and meet other like-minded travellers. Also consider Live Facebook events or webinars on a particular theme such as cruising.
Start a reward scheme for repeat bookings, returned clients and recommendations
A rewards programme can incentivise clients to book with a travel agency again and again. Offer benefits such as discounts on future trips, priority booking, and exclusive perks – upgrades and VIP access to lounges, for example. The more customers travel with an agency, the more rewards they can earn, making them more likely to remain loyal.
Giveaways and special offers
Giveaways are also effective at encouraging customers to return. Offering a discount to customers who book their trips a certain number of months in advance, special promotions or gifts are other popular incentives. For a large family booking, you could provide travel games to keep the children occupied during their flight. For a luxury trip you could send a travel guide book.
Giving customers credit to use towards their next trip, package deals that include airfare, hotel, and rental car for a discounted price, and offering unique experiences or activities that are unavailable to the general public are other ideas to establish customer loyalty.
Customer loyalty can help your travel agency succeed
Creating customer loyalty is vital to the success of your travel agency. Repeat business from loyal customers means you’ll enjoy a reliable source of income, reduce the need for constantly acquiring new clients, and give your travel agency a significant advantage.
The Travel Franchise has an established business model that has helped hundreds of people new to travel to start their own online travel agency, with some earning £100k annually.
It understands how integral customer loyalty is to your travel agency and has proven strategies, processes and tactics that mean your customers will return time and time again.
By becoming a member, you’ll benefit from expert support, guidance, ongoing training, and resources focused on helping you succeed.
If you love travel, helping people and want to be your own boss, The Travel Franchise could be a good option for your future.