How Xanterra is making CX magic with marketing

In an exclusive interview, The Xanterra Collection CMO Betsy O’Rourke reveals why a data-driven approach opens new doors to fresh revenues

Xanterra Collection CMO Betsy O’Rourke was recently interviewed for an EyeforTravel by Reuters Events white paper. As the person responsible for driving revenue across the enterprise, and working with the group’s multiple brands to achieve targets, O’Rourke reveals how a data-driven approach is working.

The US-based group has a diverse family of brands ranging from the historic Grand Canyon Railway to multiple iconic national parks, hiking and biking, traditional tours and even small ship luxury Windstar cruises and luxury resorts. In addition, it is part of the larger Anschutz Corporation including entertainment giant AEG, sports teams, and films. Speaking about her role, O’Rourke said: “I spend most days jumping from one company to another, working both one-on-one and with teams on a variety of marketing, sales, revenue management and call centre initiatives. We are constantly looking for new ways to improve the customer experience and drive new and repeat business.”

EFT by Reuters Events: Xanterra has gone through a process of successfully consolidating disparate data sources. What was the rationale behind this move?

BO: My role spans everything from brand police, ensuring that we are on brand message across all channels for each brand, to technology champion, and looking for new ways to improve our performance. In order to leverage our scale, many marketing functions are centralised for expertise and efficiency, and the consolidation of disparate data sources was the first functional area that we dealt with. First and foremost, the rationale was to acquire a sophisticated CRM tool that would enhance communications to our guests and prospects that would benefit all brands. This would not have been affordable or efficient for each individual brand, but through consolidation each brand would have a top-notch tool as well as other benefits. For example, understanding the characteristics of guests who travelled with two or more brands in our portfolio to enable more cross-brand sales. It would also allow us to invest in a centralized team of experts to serve all brands, achieving high quality and performance at lower costs.

EFT by Reuters Events: How did you ensure you got what you wanted and what were some of the challenges? 

BO: We accomplished this by developing a very robust RFP that involved key stakeholders from all of our brands. We then conducted a thorough search and evaluation process for the right technology partner – this involved considering 19 different companies [Xanterra eventually settled on RedPoint Global]. The biggest challenge we faced was how to overcome the many disparate data silos where our customer data resides. If I recall, we had over 70 databases in multiple different systems. Creating a ‘golden record’ of a person from different source systems isn’t uncommon, but what made us unique is the volume of data sources throughout our portfolio of brands.

Download the free white paper: Cracking CX: Human-focused, Data-Driven, Unforgettable

EFT by Reuters Events: What are the key components to a great customer experience today? What are your customers demanding and how are you delivering? 

Some key components of delivering a great customer experience is anticipating the needs and preferences of our guests and delivering a personalised experience (without being creepy). We use our database to identify segments of customers and tailor our offerings based on their preferences. We also pay very close attention to customer feedback to ensure we are meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

EFT by Reuters Events: A lot has been said about hyper-personalisation - how do you define this, and are you achieving it yet? 

BO: Hyper-personalisation is the delivery of a 1:1 relevant experience at each stage of the customer life cycle – in real time. While we still have plenty of work to do, we have achieved key milestones on our roadmap with the help of our partners and are leveraging AI driven decision making with many of our guest touchpoints. With AI, we can better personalise our touchpoints at scale.

EFT by Reuters Events: What is more important - product, price or the experience, and how do you achieve the right balance

BO: Experience is absolutely at the top of our list. There isn’t another company in the world that offers such a diverse collection of travel experiences. That’s our calling card. We also recognise that price and product often define value, but we believe that when we deliver an unforgettable experience, it’s priceless.

Xanterra’s two key areas of investment in 2020

1) Continued investment in the marketing technology stack. We plan to connect a two-way interface for our five call centres directly into our consolidated database to enable our sales representatives from every brand to see the full profile of any guest from any brand. Today, our call centre agents can only see the guests within their own brands, but this change will give them visibility to any guest or prospect in the full database across all brands. With this information, we can deliver a highly personalised experience, leading to higher conversions.  

2) Legal and regulatory compliance. With GDPR and now CCPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act, now in effect, we anticipate additional privacy and compliance laws to be introduced in the near future so we are investing in tools to help us remain compliant with both current and future anticipated privacy legislation.  

EFT by Reuters Events: What do you think is the future of customer loyalty and how are you evolving to meet this? 

BO: Customer loyalty will become less about monetary discounts and points systems and more about recognition, status and the social responsibility that a brand stands for. The concept of conscious consumerism is on the rise and the environment and climate change is at the top of many consumers’ minds. Thankfully, sustainability and reducing our environmental footprint through sustainable business practices are core pillars of what we stand for as a travel company. I’m unaware of any other travel company that has received as many awards and accolades for our environmental leadership. Our company mission statement is ‘Legendary Hospitality with a softer footprint’. The ‘softer footprint’ is a filter for all of our operations even at the supply chain level.

The concept of conscious consumerism is on the rise and the environment and climate change is at the top of many consumers’ minds

Top tips for travel marketers

  • Keep up: Marketing has become so complex with new technology, new rules of engagement, new channels, and ever changing customer expectations. It is important for brands to keep an eye on all of this and adopt and adapt appropriately
  • Remember the fundamentals of brand messaging to create the appropriate expectations for guests so they can have the best possible experience.
  • Roll with real time: With the world becoming more and more data driven, marketers need to have real-time access to accurate information and the analytical skills to understand what the data is really telling them and then taking appropriate and timely actions to maximize company revenues at the most efficient spend levels.
  • Experiment: Successful travel marketer must have a handle on technology advancements. The mar-tech space is growing at such a rapid pace. Staying on top of emerging technology and experimenting with it can provide a significant competitive advantage.

EFT by Reuters Events: Which brands do you most admire and why?

BO: REI as they have put a stake in the ground regarding social purpose with their #Optoutside campaign which has expanded to go beyond just Black Friday and become more of a daily challenge for all of us to reduce our impact on the planet and leave the world better than we found it.

Patagonia for both their 1% for the Planet campaign, as well as becoming more involved with advocating for climate change awareness. 

And Virgin! Because they are disruptors in every industry in which they compete. They have a lens on their customer that is so focused and they deliver on their customers’ preferences and expectations without apology to those who aren’t part of their customer profile.

Download the free white paper: Cracking CX: Human-focused, Data-Driven, Unforgettable which also includes interviews with senior executives Caesars Entertainment, Vacasa, WhyHotel, Diamond Resorts and Flight Centre

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