Did you know it takes an average of 20 days to convert a travel enquiry to a sale? Without being annoying, the travel industry could learn a thing or two from other industries that hang on to their leads like a dog with a bone – insurance, mobile phone companies and banks.
The difference with travel, however, is that it is a far more emotional purchase than insurance or a cell phone service and hence often requires a great deal more hand holding to convert that enquiry into a sale.
Our consulting process in travel is therefore long and requires a great deal of communication. Generally, more than five iterations occur before a booking is made, and of course, keeping track of this is critical.
Therein lies the CRM gap in travel systems. In travel, we use technology to update websites with product, quoting and even executing the sale, but almost never incorporate all-important enquiry management, and standard communications.
Typically in travel, when an enquiry arrives, we produce a quote and itinerary and send it to the customer. When the customer accepts that quote, it is processed and handled by our back office, we generate confirmations and travel documents and our customers hit the road.
But what happens in between sending the quote and getting the sale – 20 days, that’s what happens. That’s a lot of time for that lead to go elsewhere if you’re not nurturing it.
Currently, if travel businesses recognise the need to foster their leads, they rely on manual processes like spreadsheets to keep track of enquiries, but manual processes rely on people. And because in travel we often deal with a long sales pipeline, we’ll be juggling many enquiries at the same time. Trying to keep track of them and their true status is difficult.
If you don’t feed enquiries in at the top and keep them alive via continuous engagement, bookings dry up, and with that revenue.
The volume of data recorded and transferred during the consultation is significant and the need to re-use that data (hotel descriptions, ad-hoc services, fact sheets and brochures) is high. What’s more, that data has to be in a central place so that when a consultant leaves, they don’t take all that intellectual property with them.
In fact, even if they’ve gone out to lunch and the client needs immediate assistance, someone else should be able to respond to the client’s queries and assist without the hassle of having to scratch around and waste time to get the full picture.
From a strategic perspective, it’s also important to monitor your conversion rates and understand which marketing sources are working, how to qualify your leads and which consultants convert more leads, and why. Businesses can assess the value of their pending business and monitor when last they spoke to each lead and what was communicated.
And for marketing, data from your CRM can help you understand what your customers are interested in and guide you in selecting your products for targeted marketing campaigns to ensure even greater success.
If you recognise the CRM gap in your business, there are several solutions on the market, but what should you be asking when finding the right CRM for you?
- Is the CRM travel specific, i.e. does it allow you to record travel specific information like travel dates, departure points, pax, countries of interest, products of interest (hotels, packages, tours), etc.?
- Can it easily be connected to your website / lead sources?
- Does it allow you to automate your communications workflow?
- When you convert from enquiry to lead, do you have to recapture information onto another screen or system?
- Does it keep track of all communication?
- Will it assist you maintaining brand identity and quality through standardised email wording, styles and signatures?
- If you ever stop using the CRM or move to a new CRM, will you lose your data?
- Does it track quotes (and quote versions)?
- Are repeat and referred clients identified and tracked?
For travel businesses, managing enquiries and feeding your sales pipeline is critical. If your existing travel system is not ticking the box and helping you nurture your lead, a CRM can help your staff set themselves apart from the Internet and become 21st century travel agents who go beyond the transaction and actually consult.