Over the past two decades, market situations shifted towards are more customer friendly approach. An increasing number showed that the focus on the transaction moved to the relational aspect of the exchange (So et al., 2016). But why is there this switching trend to a more customer friendly approach? Nowadays the importance of customer engagement strategy in gathering revenue is undeniable. When there are more engaged customers, it automatically means a higher customer retention, increased loyalty and customer lifetime value and in the end more sales, which lead to more money (Peelen et al., 2013).
However, in theory it always looks easier than it is in reality and a company can have certain strategies in their mind, but was is the customer point of view on this subject? According to Xiang et al. (2015) from a customer’s perspective, brand loyalty depends for a great deal on the consumer’s experience while consuming a particular brand. This role remains very important in order to develop brand loyalty. However, with the rise of new media channels and the growing popularity of internet, also here is an increasing trend. The rise of social media and the increasing usage of a smartphone enables customers to interact easily with other consumers outside of the actual service consumption. And thus makes it a perfect situation allowing companies to encourage their customers to become ambassadors (Malthouse et al 2013).
But as we are focussing on the tour operators side of the tourism industry, are there concrete examples of how organizations are dealing with these growing trends? Rangitata Rafts (https://www.rafts.co.nz/), located in New Zealand is a company that is solely based on giving their customers the best experience possible. And it isn’t just about the rafting trip itself, as I experienced myself this organization takes care of the whole process. From the initial booking process, to eventually making sure the post experience is without any flaws. The thing which differentiate them to other similar (rafting) tour operators, is that they know what they want and that can also be clearly seen in their customer engagement strategy.
Rangitata Rafts chose to embrace and engage with their customers on the internet and social media. In other words, they are using the language of its target audience, and therefore they are automatically connecting with them. From funny posts on Facebook, to actually dealing with potential complaints via Social Media. When relating this back to the theory, Van Doorn et al., (2010) came to a conclusion that such beyond-purchase interactions are the behavioural manifestation of customer engagement. But as explained in the second paragraph, a great deal of brand loyalty still depends on the actual experience of the service or product. Therefore, Rangitata Rafts can count on me as an ambassador for their organization.
Malthouse, E. C., Haenlein, M., Skiera, B., Wege, E., & Zhang, M. (2013). Managing customer relationships in the social media era: introducing the social CRM house. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 27(4), 270-280.
Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (2nd ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
Rangitata Rafts. (n.d.). Rafts. Retrieved September, 2017, from https://www.rafts.co.nz/
So, K. K. F., King, C., Sparks, B. A., & Wang, Y. (2016). The role of customer engagement in building consumer loyalty to tourism brands. Journal of Travel Research, 55(1), 64- 78.
Van Doorn, J., Lemon, K. N., Mittal, V., Nass, S., Pick, D., Pirner, P., & Verhoef, P. C. (2010). Customer engagement behavior: Theoretical foundations and research directions. Journal of service research, 13(3), 253-266.
Xiang, Z., Wang, D., O’Leary, J. T., & Fesenmaier, D. R. (2015). Adapting to the internet: trends in travelers’ use of the web for trip planning. Journal of Travel Research, 54(4), 511-527.