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Victor at Sabre’s Roundtable – Understanding Your Customer…

Global travel tech firm Sabre has conducted new research exploring the revenue strategies of leading UK retailers and how they align to shaping products and services based on a 360-degree view of the customer. The research is designed to help Sabre’s commercial airline clients understand how they can (and should) take a holistic view of the traveller rather than just considering airfares alone; and it was launched at an exclusive roundtable event in London – on a glorious late summer’s evening – to which I and several other figureheads from aviation and retail contributed.

Roundtable chair Sergey Shebalov, Director of Operations and Research at Sabre, explains that airlines are being challenged to find new ways of generating and forecasting revenue in the face of ever higher operating costs. Retailers, he suggests, might be the answer, many top retail businesses looking beyond their inventory, questioning what they know about their customers, and then working out how best to maximise their loyalty and engagement. As such, many retailers are now creating bespoke packages and experiences for their customers which ultimately drives more business. Sergey, and Sabre, calls the approach ‘total revenue optimisation’ (TRO) and feels it’s a major opportunity for airlines.

Victor, too, is focused on experiences. Our charter isn’t just about compelling pricing but fully understanding the traveller and giving them choice, control and, ultimately, a surprise and delight service. In luxury aviation, success is completely dependant on delivering highly personalised travel for every discerning customer that flies with us. The more times someone engages and books with us, the better we can understand, tailor and provide exactly what they want. Operating at the high end, you need to be able to offer people things they’d like but haven’t thought about yet – our transparent marketplace is built on a unique mix of hi-tech and high-touch service, and by giving customers seamless options and a clear overview of the charter process it allows us to do exactly that.

Fellow panellist Roland Jaggi, Director of Sales and Revenue Management for Aegean Airlines, acknowledged that whilst his company understands customer demand they are now prioritising creating the infrastructures that will allow them to know and serve fliers individually. John Vary, Innovation Manager at John Lewis, offered some interesting thoughts about how the widely respected British retailer offers dynamic and exciting personalisation in its own space. For example, customers are invited to John Lewis’ head office in Victoria, London to try new products and concepts that they have an interest in – all before they are tested in store. Such bespoke two-way dialogue between shopper and store creates powerful transactional experiences – both from a financial and emotional perspective.

Having two-way dialogue with your customer, in any walk of business life, is crucial. Businesses going in hard with special offers and promotions tend to offer less back to the customer relationship over time. Victor, like John Lewis, looks at the long-term experience for those looking to engage with it – in other words, how do we make the customer feel that what we’re providing for them is intuitive and truly helpful and delightful?

This, again, is down to understanding every single conversation we have our customers. As a dynamic tech business, data helps us work out what elite travellers want and make their travel more seamless and intuitive. But technology only gets you so far. It is undoubtedly important as we scale – as any business scales – but, for us, there is a challenge to make so many flights around the world, each with so many variables and unique requirements, totally 1-2-1. Knowing when and where to use the technology, and balancing that with a continual focus on high-touch service and personal customer interaction is the real challenge. This is where your business can grow its revenue and community.

It was a huge pleasure to take part in Sabre’s event, and highly insightful. Undoubtedly, it will be interesting to see where air travel – in all its forms – heads next and what more aviation chiefs, particularly in our own space, can learn from other fields, industries and schools of thought around them. A good leader will always keep their radar on, be ready to react to anything inspirational happening elsewhere – however far removed it initially seems to be – and look to adapt it if it can help further their prospects of success.

For more on Sabre’s retail-minded insights look here.

Clive Jackson, Founder & CEO, Victor

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