There are three different engagement areas: the physical area, the digital area, and the social area. Comparing the physical area and the digital area, talking about travel agencies, one can say that it is easier for online travel agencies to increase customer engagement. This statement will be explained by using the relationship pyramid.
First, from an article written by Pauline Ashenden, marketing manager of Eptica, we can read that the web has paved the way for new business models: customers have the possibility to book overnight stays directly at the website of hotels and flights directly at the website of airlines (Ashenden, 2018). This means more competition for online travel agencies. But, that also means that there is more pressure on delivering a more efficient and superior, personalized experience to customers. Since there is high pressure, the company will get engaged employees, which means that they deliver great customer experiences. Because of this reason, the company will get engaged customers; they buy more from you, buy more often from you and recommend you to others. Within the market of physical travel agencies, there is not much competition anymore since almost every customer is booking their holiday online.
Secondly, online travel agencies are less expensive and are more flexible. If customers decide to book their holiday at a physical travel agency, they are time bonded. Physical travel agencies have an opening time just as every shop. Online travel agencies instead are open 24 hours per day. If a customer chose to book a holiday late in the evening, it is possible. Because the internet is always available. Besides, the costs to book a holiday online are most of the time less expensive. The internet makes it available to compare the prices of different websites, so you will always have the cheapest price as possible. It takes a lot of time if you have to travel from travel agency to travel agency to see which one is cheaper.
Also, keeping up with the database is easier for online travel agencies. The customers will fill out their personal information themselves and they can control everything that the customer does; from clicking on images on the website to seeing the date of their first purchase. Everything is saved in their database. For physical travel agencies, on the other hand, is keeping up with the database more difficult. They only get the personal information of the client if they book a holiday with them, they cannot control the buying process of the customer, and it is more difficult to reach your customers.
To get deeper into this subject, for online travel agencies it is easier to reach their customers. If they would like to get reviews, they could just send an email to the customers in their database. Subsequently, it is easier to get their customers on a higher level of the relationship pyramid, they get more engaged with the travel agencies and are included in the decision-making process of the company. It might occur that they become partners; the highest level of the relationship pyramid.
Looking at the relationship pyramid underneath, retrieved from the Customer Relationship Management book written by Ed Peelen and Rob Beltman, most of the customers of a physical travel agency are a prospect, someone who can become a customer, or a customer (Rob Beltman, 2013). For an online travel agency, it sounds the same, but for them, it is easier to get their customers an ambassador or partner. Social media makes it easy for customers to promote a company or write a review about this company. Besides, the company could use customers active on social media as influencers; people who want to promote their company in return of a gift.
However, physical travel agencies have face to face contact with their customers. This would mean that the customers feel more valued and listened to. Besides, physical travel agencies can make customized trips to the needs and wants of their customers. On the other hand, online travel agencies offer customer service via telephone or email. Nowadays, they can even have contact with travel agencies via online chat or WhatsApp. The company reacts within a few minutes and your problems are directly solved. This makes them also feel valued and listened to.
To conclude, nowadays, customers prefer to book their holiday online. I understand the reason why. It is easier; you can book your holiday whenever you want. It is cheaper; you can compare the prices of different websites. It is easy to get in contact with the online travel agency; via telephone, email, online chat or WhatsApp and you will feel valued since they give you the opportunity to help to decide on the company’s decisions.
Ashenden, P. (2018, April 18). Eptica. Retrieved from http://www.eptica.com: https://www.eptica.com/blog/how-good-digital-customer-experience-travel-brands
Rob Beltman, E. P. (2013). Customer Relationship Management. United Kingdom: Pearson.