In the Trenches: Customer Relationship Management

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on November 14, 2012
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When you book travel for a living, you naturally have to hold on to a lot of customer data. After all, the federal government requires us to provide a traveler’s name (as it appears on official ID), birth date, and gender whenever we reserve or change a flight itinerary. The question is: What do we do with the information then?

I’m not talking about selling people’s data or using it for advertising purposes. I’m talking about analyzing it internally to provide better service to our clients going forward.

You see, we routinely collect personal data that includes credit card and frequent flier numbers, as well as a traveler’s general preferences. (For example: Do you prefer a window or an aisle seat?) We keep this information in a secure database that’s maintained by a third party, the company that provides our reservation system. There are a couple of problems with this.

First, because credit card data is stored in the database, I can only share a traveler’s profile with my two employees who need access to that level of information. This excludes the concierges who monitor flights, the very people who deal with our clients every day.

This is fairly poor planning on my part. If a client asks a concierge what the checked baggage allowance is on a given flight, the concierge should be able to look up the client’s profile to see whether he or she has elite status on the airline in order to give an accurate answer. That doesn’t happen today. Instead, the concierges end up asking me for info, and we might not even have it.

The second problem: Our data resides with the reservations-system company, so I don’t have it in a format I can manipulate. That means I can’t see what I want to see or choose who I want to allow to see it. What’s more, if we ever decide to switch agencies or a use a different system, the data isn’t coming with us.

This needs to change. I’ve started looking at customer relationship management software, so I can bring our data in-house and make things better for our clients and our concierges. The problem is finding a CRM system that does what we need but doesn’t cost a fortune. Turns out, that’s not as easy as I had hoped.

But the time has come for us to do something about this, so I’m diving in head first! If anyone has any systems they like that aren’t insanely expensive, please chime in.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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