When people pay for "luxury," what is it they're really getting? Top-tier service. Attention to detail. A personal touch. Overall, a one-of-a-kind experience. That's the goal of luxury vacation club Inspirato with American Express, which caters to high-end travelers. Its membership model is one in which customer experience can't be taken lightly. Retention and renewal is paramount to success. So when the company experienced substantial growth, it knew it couldn't pass on any growing pains to its members. It made major changes to improve internal systems, CRM technology, and employee collaboration without missing a beat with its members.
Inspirato provides members with exclusive access to more than 500 vacation homes and destinations worldwide. Personal vacation advisers (PVAs) help members choose the best destination and amenities, and once there, a destination concierge (DC) is on hand to cater to the individual needs of each member. It's critical that they share information about members in real time and collaborate to ensure each trip exceeds expectations. But the company's homegrown system of spreadsheets, emails, and piles of paper couldn't keep up with the important member data being generated, especially as it grew through acquisition at the end of 2013.
The PVAs captured information as they planned trips with members, such as the types of restaurants they like, if they have any food allergies, what brands of wine they prefer, and what activities they like to do while on vacation. But sharing that information was difficult. "We were not able to take advantage of the knowledge we had about members," says David Kallery, president. Data was disconnected and in a number of places. The company needed way to filter, search, track, and manage member profiles, preferences, trip history, and other information.
"We had to invest in service to avoid commoditization," adds Brent Handler, CEO. It was critical to improve member relationship management and get the company's data house in order. Working with TeleTech, Inspirato installed salesforce.com's service cloud as its CRM system. This centralized system combined member records and data living in multiple places, or nowhere at all. A detailed profile was created for each member, now accessible to both personal vacation advisers and destination concierge from the cloud via PC, tablet, or other mobile devices. Inspirato could now leverage its member data to improve the experience and be more proactive with its service.
In particular, the team developed a customer experience optimizer, a customized tool that stores all member trip and personal information. On the back-end, a rules engine serves up information on relevant destinations for individual members based on their preferences when they visit the website, as well as to the PVA to recommend the right vacation during conversations with customers. In addition, PVAs and DCs can add new preferences directly to the member profile at any time. For example, if a member mentions that it is their child's birthday, the PVA can add it to the system for future reference, and the DC at the destination can prepare decorations and a birthday cake immediately. "Employees can be more granular with member information," Kallery says.
Immediacy is critical to an exceptional experience, which is why the team built a notification center tool to alert employees in real time about member activity and opportunities. It lets PVAs know if their members search for new destinations via the website, make changes to their preferences within their profile, or contact the company with a question. It includes a dashboard that measures any actions taken by PVAs and DCs regarding the member relationship, and what, if any, resolutions were necessary. The automated voice-of-the-customer alerts are sent via desktop or mobile device.
Inspirato can also now be more proactive with trip recommendations and decisions about new destinations to invest in, Kallery says. A customized trip proposal tool keeps a record of proposed trips. The tool shows the types of trips that members have taken, what they might be interested in for the future, and what they have declined. It can also categorize potential trips into segments. For example, the same member may have certain preferences for family vacations, and others for romantic getaways. The proposal tool will recommend different types of destinations based on the type of trip being taken.
"Our PVAs are artists, creating very unique experiences for individual members," Kallery says. "We needed to give them the right tools to empower them to create the best possible experiences for members. They now have the tools to execute on their vision."
Kallery adds that the biggest benefit has been more detailed visibility into the trip revenue pipeline. Prior to the initiative, he says, it was difficult to truly understand the day-to-day business. "[Senior leaders] didn't know how often we interacted with members, or how many trips were being proposed by us or requested by our members. I can now view the business on a granular level. I have hourly dashboards I can access about active members, trip updates, and more. I understand our business from a fundamentally different perspective. Every piece of feedback in every interaction is captured, which informs new experience development."
In December 2013 Inspirato acquired a competitor, immediately doubling its membership. The new system was imperative to keeping up its level of service for all members, during the transition and moving forward. "Scale is critical," Kallery says.
The program has had bottom-line impact as well. Kallery reports improved relationships between members and employees, higher employee associate productivity, and a rise in sales due to the increased number of trips booked and improved occupancy metrics.
In addition, critical member satisfaction and renewal rate KPIs maintain their high levels, Kallery says. Prior to the merger, the company enjoyed a 96 percent retention rate and Net Promoter Score of nearly 70, well above other travel services. Kallery says the biggest testament to the success of the program is that these numbers have stayed consistent during the systems integration and through the merger. "We couldn't stop business [during the implementation]," he says. "We couldn't call a time out."
Next steps include continuing to maximize the value of customer relationship. Kallery says the data will help the company decide which new destinations and experiences to add to its portfolio. "The new technology platform enables us to gather valuable member insight," he says. "We're hearing from our members that they want to explore the world in different ways."