Virgin Holidays has transformed the way it stores and uses data to help boost the quality of customer experiences.

Speaking at the recent Adobe CX Forum in London, Saul Lopes, customer lifecycle lead at Virgin Holidays, said the firm’s data efforts were “in a bad place” in 2014. With the help of his team, Lopes spent the past few years transforming customer perceptions and has created a 37% increase in revenue from customer relationship management (CRM) communications

“The burning platform was having to change,” he said. “We transformed our business strategy to create differentiation. By giving a great end-to-end experience, and an increased level of personalisation, we realised more customers would come back.” 

Data silos

Lopes said sorting the “technology basics” was the starting point for change. Three years ago, the business held data in silos, it was running three campaign management systems and Lopes had to manage frustrated teams.

He was keen to centralise all customer data on a single, scalable platform. The business chose Adobe Campaign to help reduce its reliance on 44 data tables, with 2,000 variables, to seven data tables, with just 200 variables. The project was delivered on time and on budget in just six weeks. 

“We divided everything into small, achievable chunks,” said Lopes. “We got up and running, we proved our success and we received buy-in from above. The CRM team is now the central voice of customer experience. That’s really helped change team morale. My team no longer does marketing – we focus on experience, engagement and service.”

Single strategy

Lopes highlighted several ways Virgin Holidays had used its single data platform to improve customer relationship engagement. Prior to transformation, for example, pre-departure communication was focused on sales. When other engagement about a booking did take place, it was disjointed and came from multiple departments.  

Virgin Holidays now has a single strategy and has established clear communications across all channels. Lopes said the firm has created omnichannel engagement and overhauled the holiday reminders it sends to customers. 

The firm sends a booking celebration email to all holiday makers, which includes a personalised video about their destination and vacation. The aim, said Lopes, is to build excitement. Other post-sales communication with customers includes a holiday countdown and clear information on visas and seat bookings.

Simple changes have helped, too. Lopes said a key problem was that customers would often contact the firm and not know their customer reference number. The firm has overcome the challenge by introducing a consistent header that includes the reference number across all customer communication channels.

Lopes said the project has helped create £250,000 in cost savings. He had advice for other digital leaders who are attempting to improve customer experiences, including retail executives.

“Focus on disloyalty – think about why customers are leaving you in the first place,” he said. “Too many people assume all the experiences they deliver are good. Also, don’t forget the basics. Focus on what customers expect you to do well, not simply delighting them. Finally, do what they expect well. The companies with the highest loyalty make things easy for their customers.”