Many coach & group travel sales people and travel agents find it difficult to articulate value for coach holiday customers. This leads them to talk more about the prices and features of their packages and offerings instead of portraying inherent value from the point of view of their customers and / or potential customers.
Key arguments for travelling by coach are that coach holidays are all-inclusive, provide personal service, excellent value for money, comfortable, safe and environment-friendly. Customers, however, often define value very differently than this so we need to understand how it is that they define value for themselves. This is important because customers who understand the value coach & group travel offers tend to be active promoters – they are the clients with the greatest level of spend, retention and advocacy.
It is what your customer values that drives their purchasing behaviour. Knowing their motives and needs allows a business to develop customer portfolios with higher levels of profitable promoters. Value is not just about Euro spend - it is not simply a question of price - customers buy based on emotions. The rational communication of value in terms of price and features is not the full story. Neuro-marketing experts are currently agreed that most customer decisions are made unconsciously and that information itself is emotional and not at all rational. Perceptions of value are linked to inherent expectations and their subsequent personal fulfilment.
When we come to think of the sources of value for coach & group travel customers many think of the product itself, or the service delivered, in some cases it is a physical resource like a brand new coach, hotel, restaurant and / or visitor attraction. Then we quickly move to ideas of friendly hospitality, service excellence and attention to detail. However, customers tend to think of value in terms of egocentric expectations, goals or results. That is the personal outcome they are seeking – the need that they wish to be fulfilled. These expectations should be identified and always sit centre-stage.
In addition, customers’ overall perception of value is very much affected by the experiences they have during the delivery of their expectations (i.e. trip delivery in tourism terminology). They very often define value, too, from the feelings and benefits they receive from belonging to a particular group or community. Status and image derived from group identity and community dynamics are powerful motivators. Harley Davidson Motor Cycles, for example, have become a leading global brand of motorcycles based on developing their community of HOGS (Harley Owners Group), people that love to wear the brand, logo, promote and attend Harley Davidson events (see http://events.harley-davidson.com/ ). How can one replicate this for coach and group travel companies?
To conclude, customers no longer simply define value in terms of price, features and advantages of products and services. Coach & group travel customers define value by how their personal and also group expectations are fulfilled. If their expectations are not fulfilled they will change to other forms of group holiday travel, e.g. ocean and / or river cruises. Coach & group holiday marketing and sales people should always try to identify these expectations and fulfil them in terms of overall trip delivery experience. This might entail a change in perspective - from tour operating as such to designing experiences.
Developing a sense of community is also advisable in many instances (e.g. with social media, special events and incentives, supporting sustainable agriculture and / or environment / nature protection projects ). And last but not least - all communications should focus on employing strong emotional and / or iconic high-quality customer-centric images - for a good picture still tells a thousand stories, especially in times of rapidly growing mobile and social media usage.