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The future of AI and CX: Intrepid Travel interview

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The future of AI and CX: Intrepid Travel interview

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We live in a quick turnaround culture. From a quick response rate to the importance of seamless customer experience (CX). Intrepid Travel is known for being at the forefront of customer service and CX. Marketing sits down with chief customer officer Leigh Barnes of Intrepid Travel to talk about the importance of a tailored customer journey.

Marketing Mag: We live in a quick turn around culture. How important is an instant response? How quickly can you lose a customer through slow response? 

Leigh Barnes: Customers want the right information fast. However, there is no point responding quickly if the information doesn’t help the customer. So yes, response time is becoming more important every day.

But just as vital is the relevancy of the information provided. People will be shopping around and looking for different options. The faster and more relevant your answers are will mean they’re more likely to engage and book with your brand.

People like getting human responses; the less cookie cutter or programmed, the better. They aren’t as concerned by small grammar mistakes if they know they’re engaging with someone who is there to help them.

Marketing Mag: How important is the tailored journey that you have created?

Barnes: In 2021, Intrepid delivered more one-to-one automated email journeys than any other year. This investment allowed us to send personalised communications to customers based on their individual interests. These emails have a click-through rate almost four more than standard emails. Email is the third largest driver of our website bookings. 

We’ve focused on creating tailored journeys around our customers’ wants. They’re important as it is providing customers with information they need. This could be more detail about a trip, content to help them prepare for a trip, or just a gentle reminder about the holiday. It is all about timely, personal and action-based communications. It also helps us scale, as the sends are automated, which means we’re able to provide the right information to the right people more of the time.

Marketing Mag: What are the highlights of the AI that make the CX smooth and easy to use?

Barnes: The real benefit in using AI has been the ability to feature trips in our emails based on our customers’ interests. Without it, we would typically send emails with the same trips featured to all of our subscribers. However, with Einstein, we’re able to personalise the trip content based on AI data. This is rather than having to rely on what we think the customer wants to see. This provides a much more authentic and interesting experience for each individual subscriber, which is important when you’re reaching thousands of people who have different tastes and travel styles.

Marketing Mag: How has Salesforce assisted in the fundraising campaigns on Intrepid Travel?

Barnes: We’ve used Salesforce to help understand our customers better so we can send them the most relevant information about the work we’re doing through The Intrepid Foundation.

For example, by tapping into customer data in Sales Cloud, Intrepid was able to target a COVID Emergency Appeal for India campaign to those who had previously travelled to, or shown interest in India. The campaign resonated well with this audience, raising nearly $15,000 which went towards medical supplies, including oxygen concentrators, as well as cash transfers for the most vulnerable families and meals for more than 60,000 people.

Marketing Mag: What is the new mindset in travel for customers post-lockdown? What behaviours are you seeing when booking and travelling? 

Barnes: Customers more than ever are looking for indicators that they can trust a brand. They will check third party review sites, spend time going through your social channels and then take any means possible to get in contact with your brand. It’s important to meet your customer on the medium that works for them – whether that’s phone, live chat or in social media DMs.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for physical and mental wellbeing. A 2021 survey of 100 customers revealed our trips had a deep and lasting positive mental, emotional and physical wellbeing impact on our customers. It was powerful to hear comments about these long-term changes from our customers after their Intrepid trip:

“This trip was the best time of my life. Not only did it help physically but mentally and emotionally. The staff are the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and their knowledge is unmatched. I can’t express how amazing every aspect of this trip was. Thank you for allowing me to have the trip of a lifetime.”

We’re seeing customers want to travel in a way that has minimal impact on the planet, and as a carbon-neutral B Corp certified company, we often use our social channels to inform and educate our community, travellers and staff about climate change and decarbonisation. For Earth Day 2021, Intrepid posted three separate social media posts across its customer-facing Facebook and Instagram channels, reaching 144,446 people. Our ‘Let’s talk about decarbonising travel” post had a 7.5 percent engagement rate, the second highest for that month, which shows how much this content is resonating.

Leigh Barnes is the chief customer officer at Intrepid Travel.

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Liv Croagh

Liv Croagh is the Editor of Marketing Mag.

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