How to get new customers and keep them coming back

crosswordWith the large amount of competition that is within the travel industry, one of the most important things to do is create loyal customers. It is a company’s objective to make their company favoured above the others by their clients, meaning that they chose to travel with them rather than with any other company. The best way to show that your company is superior to others and the best out there is by creating incentives for your clients, making them returning clients. This type of loyalty can be created by having a high level of satisfaction with your service, offering customers ease and convenience for choosing your company and from offering perks to those who are loyal. It costs a business around five to 10 per cent more to acquire a new customer, when it is current customers who tend to spend 67 per cent more than a newer customer would. It is better for a company to work towards keeping their current clients by creating and maintaining a loyalty program and offering perks to those who are dedicated customers.

One of the most common ways to keep a customer loyal is through different loyalty programs. As James Birchall mentioned in his post Are you a frequent-flyer? Add joining an airline loyalty program to the to-do list, it is not only beneficial for companies but for clients as well. Frequent flyer memberships and point systems offer something back to the customer for choosing a particular company to travel with. According to Web Flyer, there were 89 million members of airline frequent-flyer programs worldwide in 2009. These loyalty programs keep customers coming back and helps turn them into return customers for your company.

There are other ways that your company can keep customers loyal. Similar to the British Airways, there are upgrades for those who are members of their loyalty programs. Advanced and separate boarding is available for those frequent clients. Receiving a free upgrade from a coach seat to a business class seat, and being allowed to board the plane prior to the coach flyers, makes a client feel like they are appreciated. These upgrades allow customers a stress-free and quick boarding experience.

Several airlines and train companies, like Via Rail, offer a member’s lounge with beverages, food and pre-boarding relaxation. This perk is great for business travellers as it lets the individual feel not only comfortable, but special as well.

Showing your customers that you appreciate them is not only beneficial for them, but for your company as well. As public relations professionals, we know offering a loyalty program and special customer appreciation perks are important because, according to the statistics posted in Cross Channel Conversation Blog:cards

  • 54 per cent would consider increasing the amount of business they do with a company for a loyalty program
  • They discovered that 46 per cent say they already have increased their business because of a loyalty program
  • 94 per cent of Canadians belong to a loyalty program

Sources:

  1. http://www.loyaltyleaders.org/facts.php?view=all
  2. http://www.hyken.com/customer-loyalty/customer-loyalty-programs-stats-facts-and-opinions/
  3. http://www.marketingmag.ca/uncategorized/secrets-of-canadas-top-loyalty-programs-2-25684
  4. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/31990/7-Customer-Loyalty-Programs-That-Actually-Add-Value.aspx

Tristan Hodgins

Toxins in the air

doctorGeneral fatigue. Mood and cognitive abnormalities. Musculoskeletal pain.

Those are not words you would think of related to flying, but they are all symptoms linked to aerotoxic syndrome. It is not well known to the general public because it is hushed by the airline industry and even taboo among crew members. Airlines have known about the problem for years but have never done anything about it. Although the medical community has recognized the Gulf War syndrome in 2008, aerotoxic syndrome is still not a formally recognizable disease. Possibly one of the most covered up syndromes of the airlines industry, aerotoxic syndrome could potentially turn into a public relations nightmare if not soon addressed by the airline industry.

The term was created in 1999 by Dr. Harry Hoffman, Professor Chris Winder, and Jean Balouet. They described the illness to be caused by breathing in contaminated aircraft air. Although the term has not been recognized medically, it is known to be a chronic multi-symptom illness that includes organ-specific and general symptoms. Although it was first thought the main cause of aerotoxic syndrome was caused by engine oils and hydraulic fluids, it has been discovered the following could also be potential threats:

  • Insecticides. Airplanes that land in foreign regions such as Cuba have to be sprayed inside the cabin with insecticides prior to landing. The in-charge flight attendant then has to hand over the empty bottles of pesticides to the ground crew before acquiring authorization to de-plane the passengers and crew members
  • Chemicals used in lavatories
  • Ingestion of de-icing fluid through the auxiliary power system
Ingestion of de-icing fluids into the APU inlet may cause aerotoxic syndrome.

Ingestion of de-icing fluids into the APU inlet may cause aerotoxic syndrome.

In addition, studies have shown that low level exposure to engine oil and the organophosphates cause neurological and behavioral changes. Airlines have many reports of fume-related incidents, though they have never done any damage control or reputation management. The Aviation Herald is still waiting for a reply to questions submitted to Lufthansa on Dec. 2, 2013 regarding a flight from Frankfurt to Germany who reported a fume event. The airline industry has never recognized aerotoxic syndrome in any press release or when speaking to the media. Aside from specific social media sites dedicated to aerotoxic syndrome, it is nearly impossible to find any information.

Could it be that airlines believe once this information becomes public knowledge, they fear their revenue and clientele will decline? Airlines have never publicly apologized to the crew members involved in the incidents. From a public relations perspective, their crisis management is subpar because they seem to be ignoring the problem when they should be addressing it directly. Some steps that should be taken to address the problem should be: including the syndrome in the flight crew training, giving workers compensation to crew members affected, and informing the media.

In March 2010, a U.S. Airways flight tail #251 had to return to the gate at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and nine people were sent to hospital with respiratory problems and eye irritation. The same plane had been involved in the same type of accident in January 2010 when 15 people got sick due to a foul odour in the aircraft. “There are some standard breathing treatments and drugs to relieve the pain in the throat,” said Scott White, a Carolina Medical Center spokesperson. U.S. Airways immediately released a statement saying it was an “electrical” smell that sickened the passengers and their “first and foremost priority is the safety of our passengers and employees and we have apologized to them for the inconvenience.” Shockingly, the aircraft took off again the same day heading to Montego Bay. Although the HAZMAT team did not find air contamination after the plane had landed in Charlotte, tail #251 had already made 15 people sick complaining of a “dirty sock” type odour on the airplane, a common complaint among those who experience aerotoxic syndrome. Of the seven crew members who were treated that day for air contamination, only six have returned to work. Charlotte’s News Channel 36 reported the same airplane had also been grounded on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30, 2009, on flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Those incidents were later traced back to a leak of hydraulic fluid, called Skydrol, in the engine.

Skydrol is an advanced fire resistant aviation hydraulic fluid that leaked through US Airways aircraft tail #251.

Skydrol is an advanced fire resistant aviation hydraulic fluid that leaked through US Airways aircraft tail #251.

“This airplane has a history and we are concerned and we’re monitoring it,” said James Ray, media chairman of the United States
Airline Pilots Association. The flight attendants union had expressed concerns about that specific aircraft previously. “It is unacceptable to expose crew members and passengers to these toxins, and it is also unacceptable to deny associated workers’ compensation claims and keep passengers in the dark”. 26 flight attendants have sued Alaska Air but lost when they filed a suit against Boeing. Passengers in Seattle and Nashville have also sued. Some experts are calling fumes event the “asbestos of the airline industry”. Are we looking at an airline cover up?

There seems to be a general standard to covering up such incidents. If airlines practiced transparency with press releases, better control of case studies, and implemented strict standard operating procedures, more awareness would be created. There seems to be a cover up in the system by the airline industry to keep this information from the crew members and general public. So next time you smell a foul odour resembling smelly feet on an aircraft, don’t blame your fellow seat-mate. Press the flight attendant call button and don’t be afraid to speak up and keep the crew informed.

Marie Latour

Stay Smart: A RACE Analysis

During the entire life cycle of any given campaign, public relations professionals make use of the RACE formula, which stands for Research, Action, Communication, and Evaluation, in order to ensure success from the beginning. Since the public relations process is cyclical, the final evaluation stage is used to examine the campaign as a whole in order to determine both its successes and failures in terms of future implementation.stay-smart

To understand this concept more fully, this post will examine how the RACE formula would have been employed by the public relations team at the Holiday Inn Express when they decided to re-launch their hugely successful “Stay Smart” campaign earlier this year. According to PR Newswire, the original campaign that launched in 1998 “was on-air for 11 years, and became one of the longest-running hotel advertising campaigns in television history, exceeding industry norms.” You may remember the campaign by its now famous ending line: “But I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.”

This long run-time is no small feat, and the public relations team at the Holiday Inn Express obviously understood how best to reach their target audience both with the original campaign, as well as with its re-launch. This was achieved by researching both demographics and psychographics of people most likely to use their brand. According to information released by Jenifer Zeigler, senior vice president of Holiday Inn Express’s brand management department, these consist primarily of men between the ages of 35 to 54 with an average household income of $80,000 who drive from location to location and generally tend to only stay a single night at the hotel.

In terms of psychographics, Zeigler uses the term “pragmatic road warriors” to describe them. These are individuals who are “interested in an efficient stay experience in which they maintain control.” As well, they “do not appreciate add on fees or paying for things they don’t need.” Finally, “they recognize the stay is clean and comfortable for a reasonable price.”

What was the Holiday Inn Express’s response to all this research? The re-launch of Stay Smart, which “offers pragmatic, honest value so our guests feel smarter for choosing the brand.”

HolidayInn_4

In order for them to put the new campaign into action, Holiday Inn Express would have had to first establish an operating budget, which, according to an article in USA Today, came in at $20 million. This would include all costs associated with actually filming the videos used in the campaign, such as hiring actors, studio time, post-production, etc., the cost of billboards, as well as any written publicity materials used. Further action items would include creating a shooting schedule for the videos, establishing timelines and deadlines for execution prior to launch, to name a few.

“Communication” is the actual launch of the campaign. In the case of the Stay Smart re-launch, the Holiday Inn Express had the advantage of social media, which was non-existent when the original campaign was created in 1998. This time, the Holiday Inn Express had the added benefit of being able to broadcast the ads using YouTube, as well as advertising them via their Twitter account, in addition to traditional media. The ad was also very well-positioned in order to reach its target audience by airing during shows like Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.

The above video has close to 2 million views, which speaks volumes for the overall success of the campaign to date. Counting YouTube views is an effective evaluation tool, as is measuring either the increase or decrease of visitors to the hotels after the launch of the campaign and comparing the figures to those prior.

Considering the new Stay Smart campaign is still in its infancy, the public relations team at the Holiday Inn Express will need to periodically re-evaluate its overall success to determine whether they need to make any modifications to it during its ultimate lifecycle.

By combining research, action, communication, and evaluation, public relations professionals are able to create and execute an effective campaign for their clients. The Stay Smart campaign is a shining example of the RACE formula put into practice.

If you were to evaluate its effectiveness, what tools would you use to measure the successes and failures of the Stay Smart campaign? Let us know with a comment!

Marc Viau

Eurail.com offers the Best Social Media Customer Service in European Rail Travel

Next time you’re planning a trip to Europe, why not plan ahead with Eurail.com, a company based in the Netherlands, this rail travel guide website has the best public relations strategies and even won the Best Social Media Customer Service Mashable.com award in 2011.Eurail.com has been the best way for overseas visitors to explore Europe for over 50 years; it’s easy, and they have the best social media team on the job.  They are a 100 per cent e-Commerce company, with a continuously growing business by expanding and providing their quality service to customers through not only their own website, but also by using the best of what social media can provide.

Eurail.com serves customers from over 175 different countries with renowned quality service by reaching out to a wider audience with links and pages to bigger social media channels like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter with a team of four agents handling and updating their customer relations on a daily basis.  There are only two agents however, who personally answer to each customer’s inquiries, concerns and they are entirely responsible to maintain and update the entire Eurail.com website  Social media is the best way to reach a travelling audience who are always on the lookout for better deals for their travel plans and eurail.com is a company that runs solely off the Internet, utilizing its best feature, a global market.

Eurail.com’s Facebook page has a continuing success rate, since being active in 2008, the fan count in 2011 was 11,000 with a growing average of 500 a week, currently standing at 121,000 likes.  Paulien Pierik, Eurail.com’s managing director, says that Facebook, “is a great platform to bring together travelers from all over the globe.  It works even faster, more effective and much more personal than e-mail support.  Our Eurail Passes offer so many travel options that assistance in planning is often welcomed. Communities like Facebook and Twitter make sure travel knowledge and experiences can be shared.”  Eurail.com’s Twitter page, which has over 7,000 tweets and 4,500 followers, offers assistance and information to its customers while monitoring attitudes towards the products they offer.  The YouTube page, with only 393 subscribes, isn’t used as much for communicating to customers as much as it is mostly used for supporting Eurail.com’s content and excellent customer service.

Rick Steves’ Europe is a successful American touring company in Washington State, U.S. and they use Eurail Passes for their American tourists during international travel.  Rick Steves’ website has a Eurail page which shows what they have to offer in terms of fares, destinations, how it works and even special promotions are displayed on the same page with a direct link to buy Eurail Passes on Eurail.com.  Rick Steves’ Europe is a popular touring company that is very active on a social media level. Their Facebook page has 160,000 likes, Rick Steves’ personal YouTube channel, which heavily promotes the touring company, has 36,300 subscribers and his Twitter page has 36,300 followers, continuously promoting what eurail.com has to offer to the American audience. rs-europe

Nomadic Matt is a travel blogger, his website not only looks for the best deals for his travels, he also wrote a blog about Eurail Passes and how much money he saved.   While he explains the Eurail Pass may not be right for everyone, it is generally a good fit if you’re young and looking for a reasonably priced trip.  Two years ago, he claims to have saved over $175, when his trip should’ve cost him about $975, he paid only $800 through Eurail.com.  “A Eurail pass is great value if you use ALL your segments and you are travelling long distances on high speed or overnight trains,” says Nomadic Matt.

Lonelyplanet.com is a forum website, where users can start discussions about absolutely anything and any other member can reply sharing their opinions and insight into whatever topic is being discussed.   A Thorn Tree Forum was started by user SuzannaMekenkamp asking about the Eurail Global Pass, she asked if it was worth buying for a 30-day trip in five countries.  While some other users advised against such a rushed trip, SuzannaMekenkamp assured that it was the trip she wanted and other users gave great advice on planning with a Eurail Pass and turns out it was the choice she decided to go with.  Advice included travel with domestic trains and first versus second class passes, while others shared links to other travel websites, eurail.com had the better deals for a fast-paced trip like the one SuzannaMekenkamp wanted.  Word to mouth is the best form of marketing strategies and as we can see it was very well worth the discussion, because  SuzannaMekenkamp received great advice from plenty of points of view and eurail.com still came out on top.

“We were surprised how easy it was to get from one country to the next…” Brett Howard & Tanya Hill, from Brisbane, Australia travelled with the Eurail Global Passes.  When you’re planning a railway trip to Europe, Eurail.com is the website to use, with personable staff on the job all the time and the best customer service guaranteed courtesy of the best social media mediums.   The Internet is a critical world, and if Eurail.com can operate throughout and be completely noticed, then wouldn’t you think they be worth trying out?

eurail

Emilie Brenning