3rd Jul 2017
In the latest issue of Customer Focus, Paul Carter, chief executive officer of Hotelplan UK, discussed why customer service is so central to the organisation. Here are four ways the company improves its offering at all levels.
Customer service experience is needed at all levels
Regardless of whether you work as a chalet girl or IT manager, it is vital to demonstrate a passion for providing the right customer experience, he says.
Carter started his career as a holiday rep along with many others currently on the board at Hotelplan: “Many of us have done seasons,” he says. “There is a lot
of experience in our organisation. It is a business built around specialist knowledge, and we know our products extraordinarily well. Even in the support functions, our chief finance officer worked as a chalet boy. It may have been 20 years ago, but he gets what it’s like to work closely with customers.”
Apply customer data effectively
“Today, businesses and customers are overloaded with information and data, and so more than ever, any marketing has to be relevant, it has to be personal, and must fulfil the needs of the customer at any given point in their journey,” Carter says. “The messaging we as organisations send has to be useful, and in our sector in particular, with so much travel researched online, we have to deliver great experiences.”
The use of customer data to deliver a better service is one way in which he believes Hotelplan could improve. He wants to link up the different tour companies and channels of communication to build a more comprehensive picture of their customers – there’s strong loyalty to individual brands, like Inntravel and Explore, but cohorts who travel might go on holidays with the different companies within the group, without the organisation linking up that data.
Stay on top of technology
Carter believes that management boards should take a more long-term view on technological advances. Rather than looking just the usual two or three years ahead, Carter thinks boards ought to look forward five to seven years, to consider how they might need to adapt to make the best use of, for example, artificial intelligence and automation. “Our tech guys in our Zurich HQ have an R&D budget, and are looking at how travel might be booked in future, for example using Amazon’s Alexa.”
Reward strong customer service
Mountain Spirit is the company’s new awards programme. It shows how employee engagement can lead to further involvement and improved customer experiences. The programme was the brainchild of a couple of junior overseas managers who were given the resources and encouraged to develop and launch it.
It has been such a success that they have also rolled out the project at Hotelplan’s UK base in Godalming, Surrey.
“Over the course of three months, we engaged everybody in the management team overseas and at the beginning of December we launched the Mountain Spirit awards. The next thing is for customers to nominate our staff, something which I have seen work really well in the travel industry. We have three categories: doing the basics absolutely brilliantly, going the extra mile, and fantastic teamwork. In the season there have been over a thousand nominations for 18 awards – that says it all,” Carter says.