Understanding Your Travel Customers

Rob Heuser

With current customer management tools, companies are able to amass an incredible amount of data about travelers’ preferences and choices, allowing them to customize their offerings to accommodate different traveler types.

Personally, I can be a bit finicky when it comes to my air travel, hotel, and where I dine on the road. Some would call me high-maintenance, but I prefer to think of myself as confident in knowing what I like. We all have preferences when we travel, so it’s important to understand your traveler customers and their needs.

Beyond queen or king: Travelers have detailed preferences

Beyond “aisle or window” on the plane, “queen or king” in the hotel, and “compact or very compact” at the car rental counter, technology allows us to suggest options to the different types of travelers based on past selections or their segmentation.

For example, I won’t eat at a restaurant that also has a location in my home city. Instead, I’ll opt for Cuban food in Miami, green chile dishes in Albuquerque, BBQ and fried chicken in Memphis — the list goes on. This way, I can explore local options and get a sense of the local cuisine.

However, as a seasoned business traveler, my preferences are probably very different from those of families traveling with small children, who might embrace the familiarity and predictability of a chain restaurant. They know, for example, they can eliminate potential conflicts with the kids if they can get Hawaiian-style pineapple and ham pizza at a franchised pizza restaurant. (This, by the way, violates my rule for pizza: no fruit, no vegetables, other than perhaps the stray black olive or mushroom – just pig, cow, and cheese. I was raised in the Midwest, and that is how pizza is made in Chicago. Also, never Ranch dressing. Never.)

Segmenting your travel customers

It’s important to segment your offering for the different traveler types. Let’s consider a few examples:

The business traveler: Most business travelers want service, speed, and convenience and are less concerned about cost. They’re typically not thrilled about being away from family and want to minimize disruptions, distractions, and annoyances. One of my hotel profiles states that I prefer a “room on a high floor, away from the elevator.”

The luxury seeker: These travelers are willing to pay a premium for a peaceful and relaxing experience. Their whole purpose for the journey is likely a reward or a special occasion, and the price is not necessarily their key concern.

The family: Families typically look for things like convenience, amenities (is childcare available for Mom and Dad’s date night? Is there a pool?), and they may not want to pay for a luxurious environment.

The first-time or occasional traveler: This group is often overlooked. Did you know that 95% of the population travels just once, or not at all, every year? I’ve been traveling since I was a youngster and have seen many things, but a new traveler might be intimidated by things like airport security, selecting a seat on the plane, or paying for meals on a flight. These travelers often require extra guidance and “hand-holding” on the journey.

Let’s look at how one can be easily overwhelmed by the travel experience. My wife travels a few times a year with me and could never understand why I was so adamant about getting to the airport early and ensuring an early boarding position. At 5′ 4″, she has no problem putting her bag under the seat and still being comfortable, but I’m well over 6 feet tall, so I jam everything in the overhead in order to have room for my feet. Therefore, I want to get on early so I don’t lose access to that overhead storage. (Hmmm, maybe if airlines offered an easy way to get some extra leg room for a reasonable price, they would target us tall guys and other “full-size” travelers.)

Similarly, seasoned business travelers are probably aware of how late room service is available, but a first-time traveler may have no idea, resorting to a late dinner of frozen burritos from the corner market. Not an ideal situation if you’re new to travel or are traveling with young children.

The solution? Ask the right questions at the time of booking and track customer preferences and purchases with an effective CRM system and loyalty program. A restaurant may get only one chance to delight a customer, so it’s important to match the traveler’s needs.

Are you doing enough to engage your travel customer? See how you can utilize mobile to drive better relationships and improve satisfaction in this market report.

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.

Rob Heuser

About Rob Heuser

Rob brings more than 20 years of mobile messaging and telecommunications insights and experiences from a variety of sales and product management roles. Currently, he leads a team in SAP Digital Interconnect's North America sales organization, creating and delivering winning mobile customer engagements to enterprise customers in the travel, banking, logistics, retail and social media industry segments. Follow him on Twitter (@robheuser_sap) or drop him an e-mail at robert.heuser@sap.com.