Keeping in touch with clients beyond the moment of booking is a key factor in customer retention. Charlotte Cullinan speaks to Travel Counsellors’ Waseem Haq to learn more about the company’s innovative approach.
Whether it’s a tin of beautifully iced personalised biscuits or a teddy bear with his own passport, Travel Counsellors’ customers often receive unique presents as they prepare for an upcoming holiday.
The products highlight the importance Travel Counsellors places on the customer experience. This was a key topic at the homeworking giant’s global conference in Manchester earlier this month, with digital and innovation director Waseem Haq presenting two sessions to the 1,600 attendees.
He explains: “Our focus is on creating experiences that customers want to talk about. It ensures they remember their Travel Counsellor when it comes to their next travel adventure, but also gives them a story they want to share with their friends. If they are going to refer a Travel Counsellor, they are going to refer one that makes them feel special.”
A central tenet of this approach has been developing brand partnerships that allow agents to easily send personalised gifts to valued customers. The items are available for agents to buy in the business’s online Brand Centre, and alongside standard gifts such as chocolates and wine there are tins of biscuits from luxury specialist Biscuiteers. Ranging from a couple of pounds to £50, the colourful biscuits are hand iced and can be themed to destinations and celebrations.
In March, Travel Counsellor Charlotte Helstrom selected a tin of holiday biscuits featuring an iced flip-flop, suitcase and palm tree. The treats were for a client Helstrom hadn’t spoken to for 18 months, but who had previously booked numerous high-value holidays and made regular referrals.
She explains: “The biscuits were the ideal way to get in touch. She contacted me the day they arrived to say thank you, and three weeks later sent an enquiry, which resulted in a £10,000 booking. It’s important to choose the right customer to send them to, but these put me back in her mind, and I’m sure she will book again.”
Haq is keen to leverage social media coverage from the products, and over the summer the business launched its #TCTed campaign, which saw UK Travel Counsellors send more than 500 branded teddy bears to children due to go on holiday. Each teddy arrived brandishing its own adventure passport and a handwritten letter from the agent. Customers were encouraged to take photos of their furry friend abroad and share it on social media.
Teddies were subsequently checked into more than 140 destinations on Twitter and Travel Counsellors regularly shared pictures on its feed.
Haq explains: “Our aim was to provide an experience to support the excitement of a summer holiday. Our Travel Counsellors really embraced it, and a lot of customers were trying to outdo each other with pictures of where their teddy had been.”
TCTed cost agents £10, and after Lizzie Adamson-Brown sent 15 bears to clients over the summer, they travelled to the North Pole, Australia and Vietnam. Many customers posted pictures on social media as soon as their bear arrived.
Adamson-Brown says: “It’s increased reach on my social media massively and it has created a lot more interaction on my Facebook page. That’s boosted my posts, so they show up more on other people’s pages, and I’m getting more enquiries through and new followers. People love him and it’s increasing brand awareness.”
Adamson-Brown has also ordered five miniature branded Christmas trees, which are new for 2017 and are supplied by florist Bloom & Wild. “I’m sending them to my corporate clients at the start of December, so the trees will be sat on their desks throughout the month,” she says. “They are branded and will stand out much more than a box of chocolates.”
Haq is keen to keep expanding the Brand Centre’s offering, and ideas in development include spices and recipe cards for customers travelling to Asia, so they can cook dishes from their destination before they depart.
“As we look to transform the customer experience, this kind of personal experience piece creates a real difference,” he explains. “In a world where digital and e-commerce are making relationships very transactional, a business that creates more memorable experiences and can show a personal touch will stand out from the crowd.”