by Allison Banko
Egencia ensures its customers get down to business. As the corporate travel arm of Expedia, Egencia partners with businesses to assist with business travel — wherever that may take them.
A few years ago, the Egencia team recognized they wanted to do something to both celebrate their customers and engage with them. But back then, Egencia wasn't interacting with its business travelers — the team was talking to the businesses' travel managers, including those in HR, Finance or Executive Administration.
"We really wanted to branch out," explained Egencia's Cate Vanasse, Senior Marketing Manager, Customer Success.
She said creating a Client Appreciation Week was a good way to start that dialogue. To show love to its customers, Egencia planned to run the effort during the week of Valentine's Day.
"I've always been such a sucker for seasonal marketing," Vanasse said. "Especially in the B2B world when you just get sick of people pulling suitcases through airports, it was just an opportunity to do something really fun."
The inaugural year of the campaign was designed to be "a week of business travel tips, new tools and other goodies."
Client Appreciation Week ran through a variety of channels including email, direct mail and phone calls.
The first Client Appreciation Week in 2012 involved prizes such as gift cards, coupons and an Apple iPad 2, along with helpful content relative to business travel. Though the campaign illustrated Egencia's gratitude toward its customers, the return on investment with such a campaign was difficult to justify. It was also an effort mainly driven by Egencia's marketing department.
By 2014, the third run of Client Appreciation Week, Egencia wanted teams beyond just Marketing to be involved to create company-wide support.
While most campaigns are easy to justify with ROI, Client Appreciation Week doesn't fit that mold. Thus, Egencia needed this year's Client Appreciation Week to generate as much feedback as possible to justify its run (and funding) in the future.
The third annual multichannel Client Appreciation Week
came to life through a multitude of teams across Egencia, including:
- Learning and Development
- Global Customer Service
- Sales and Account Management
- Global Marketing Colleagues
Egencia's supply team informed Hertz about Client Appreciation Week and the car rental company came onboard as the program's first ever sponsor. While the sponsorship did not cover all of the costs, it did offset them for Egencia.
This year's campaign also boasted new initiatives including in-person visits to local clients with flowers and chocolates, a contest allowing clients to share their ideas for new Egenica products and technology and the Corporate Travel Excellence Awards.
A CRM system and marketing automation served as the nuts and bolts on the technical side of the project. As in the past, Client Appreciation Week spread across channels including email, phone and direct mail.
Step #1. Educate teams internally
"We do an internal learning and development session several weeks before the event to make sure all the teams are aware of everything that's happening," Vanasse said.
Because Leadership made 50 phone calls, this group needed to understand whom they'll be calling and what they'll be saying. Some pieces of Client Appreciation Week can even be performed early, such as the thank-you notes Sales and Account Management send through direct mail.
Step #2. Mail thank-you notes and gift cards through CRM system
Account managers and Sales teamed up to send about 600 thank-you notes
in the mail. The message stated:
Dear (Client First Name),
In honor of Valentine's Day we want to take a moment to let you know how special you are to us. We appreciate your partnership and hope to have the privilege or working with you for years to come. Happy Client Appreciation Week!
Please enjoy this treat on us.
(Account Manager Name)
(Account Manager Title)
(Account Manager Phone)
(Account Manager Email)
This piece was customized, so the Egencia account manager or salesperson could choose whether or not to include a $10 gift card to iTunes or Starbucks.
"Those make our account managers look like thoughtful superheroes," Vanasse explained.
Step #3. Travel agents nominate star clients to receive a Starbucks gift card
Travel agents stemming from the Global Customer Service team continued to spread Egencia’s love by nominating two of their clients to receive a $10 Starbucks gift card code (as these were sent electronically). To nominate a client, travel agents filled out a survey explaining their picks.
Next, the client received an email
outlining why they were nominated, along with that gift code.
"I had just planned on reaching out to the customer and not sharing why they were nominated," Vanasse said. "But as I started to look through the reasons why travel consultants nominated someone, it was so touching that we just knew we had to put that in front of the customer."
Some examples of nominations included if a client was stranded and just wanted to get home to their family but remained patient with their Egencia travel agent. Another example was a client an agent worked with daily, and the agent simply enjoyed doing business with them.
"That human element really went so far with our travelers," Vanasse said. "[We received] great responses back from that campaign."
Step #4. Surprise local clients by delivering gifts in personTo amp up Egencia’s young social media presence, the team created a calendar of social media posts during Client Appreciation Week.
“We know for sure that anything with a picture is going to do so much better on our social channels than one without, and there are so many wonderful photo opportunities,” Vanasse explained.
An opportunity that lent itself to social media was account managers surprising local clients with gift baskets. Then the Egencia account manager and the client posed for a photo together that was posted on social media.
Step #5. Call the top 50 clients to thank them and collect feedbackEgencia’s leadership team made 50 phone calls: 25 to top travelers and 25 to top travel arrangers.
"They thank them for their business, they get their feedback," Vanasse explained. "It's a great opportunity for them to share any thoughts they may have or kudos."
These 50 clients were flagged to travel consultants as “VIPS” for the remainder of the year and received a $75 gift card code via email.
Step #6. Garner user-generated content via contests and awardsEgencia's third annual Client Appreciation Week featured various opportunities for clients to submit their own content while getting recognized and rewarded in the process.
Corporate Travel Excellence AwardsNew to this year’s campaign was the Corporate Travel Excellence Awards. Clients were given the opportunity to be recognized for the success of their travel program with the incentive of a trophy, $100 gift card and to have their story featured in an Egencia newsletter.
Clients could apply by sharing their success story in 500 words or less on a form provided to them.
- Biggest business impact with your travel program
- Most successful global travel program rollout
- The Innovator — driving travel program adoption with your travelers with social media, unconventional outreach and creative methods
- Most dramatic career growth
- C-level whisperer — grabbing the attention of your top executives with meaningful travel data insight
Egencia capitalized on this content by featuring winners on its customer website, newsletter and social channels.
"It's almost like customers submitting wonderful case studies," Vanasse said. "It was just such a great way to find out about people's successes."
Business Travel Stories contestWith the incentive of a $100 gift card prize and the opportunity to be featured in Egencia's newsletter, clients were invited to participate in the Business Travel Stories contest. This competition asked clients to share their stories from the road, falling under the categories of:
- First business travel trip
- Most successful trip
- Longest trip
- Travel tips
Egencia received 21 entries and voted on favorites, dubbing one winner per category. The winning submissions were featured both in the March traveler newsletter and on Egencia's social channels.
"There's some great information to be learned in there," Vanasse said of the stories. "Some of them are just amusing that you can relate to as a business traveler."
Share your idea with Egencia's product and technology teamsAnother piece of the content initiative in this year's Client Appreciation Week was inviting clients to share their own ideas about implementing new Egencia products or technologies. Egencia received 30 entries and finalists were chosen by the product team.
"We had some really good ideas come out of that that we hadn't considered," Vanasse said.
Winning ideas included a mobile check-in so the business traveler’s family could see where they were and a personalization piece so Egencia can keep track of a traveler's preferences. Four winners were chosen and each was awarded a $100 gift card and was featured in the March newsletter.
While these contents were incentivized by gift cards, some companies have gift policies were they cannot accept them, Vanasse explained. However, this didn't stop their participation.
"They just are doing it for the sake of sharing it and for the sake of reading what other people shared," she said. "And they love that they get their write-up in the traveler newsletter."
Step #7. Roll out new contentThough Client Appreciation Week allowed for clients to contribute valuable user-generated content, Egencia unleashed some new and refreshed content of its own. The team published three robust infographics to illustrate "why Egencia clients are more productive":
These pieces were sent out via email and were included in Egencia newsletters. Sales and account managers also sent physical copies of the content through direct mail.
RESULTSVanasse admitted that a challenging component of Client Appreciation Week was measuring its success to continue future funding. While Egencia's goal was to thank its customers, that can be difficult to justify financially.
One way Egencia has worked around this was by running its Awaken campaign in tandem with Client Appreciation Week. This program asked clients to update their data (email address, phone number and mailing address) or provide another contact within their company with the incentive of winning two $250 gift cards.
"[This gives] us tangible results," Vanasse explained. "We have a better email address or phone number, or we've discovered new contacts we can talk to. That's real, tangible ROI."
The Awaken campaign was directed at Egencia's smaller accounts that perhaps weren't getting hit as much by Client Appreciation Week since the campaign was more targeted at the company's top 100 clients. This year's Awaken effort resulted in an 18% response rate and 357 pieces of client data were updated.
Love (doesn't have to) cost a thingDespite the fact that Egencia secured a sponsorship from Hertz for this year's Client Appreciation Week, Vanasse urged that you don't need a big budget to successfully thank your customers.
"The incentives are nice — and we've added more incentives over the years because we've been able to secure budget for it — but some of the most successful components of this program didn't cost very much at all," she explained.
Vanasse recommended small acts such as having your customer service teams nominate their favorite customers without the gift card, and simply let these customers know why they were nominated.
"I would just love for fellow marketers to take away that it's really easy to do something like this, and you can start small and build on it," Vanasse said.
She also stressed the importance of consistency when running a customer appreciation campaign. For example, Egencia ensures Client Appreciation Week runs the same time every year — the week of Valentine's Day.
"Maybe Valentine's Day isn't the right thing for your corporate culture, or your clients, but pick something that you do every year, whether it's a week or a month, or some event, and continue to build on it," she recommended.
Making an impact externally and internallyThree years running, Client Appreciation Week has become a time that both Egencia customers and employees look forward to.
"It has been such a groundswell," Vanasse said. "I think when we first did it three years ago, we had some interesting campaigns tied with it, but it was really driven by Marketing. I've just loved to see over the past couple of years all different teams getting involved."
Vanasse said even after Client Appreciation Week, different teams think ahead to the next year, brainstorming ways to improve the program even more. She added that clients begin to anticipate if they're going to make the top 50 travelers and travel arrangers list, wondering if they were going to make the list come February.
"They want to be a part of it," Vanasse said. "I think it's a huge morale builder internally — everyone loves this."
Egencia's social media channels benefited, too. Because Egencia has a relatively young social media presence, Vanasse said the following numbers from Client Appreciation Week were huge for the team:
- 6.8% of followers who saw Client Appreciation Week posts clicked them
- 2.5% of followers who saw Client Appreciation Week posts shared them
- 1.27% Twitter engagement for Client Appreciation Week posts
These posts yielded Egencia's highest organic clickthrough rates on social media. Egencia collects all of the feedback it receives from Client Appreciation Week, including all of the emails Sales receives on the program. This allows the team to not only see the feedback itself, but also the client's name, title and company.
"When it comes to budgeting time for next year, we can say, yeah, we could cut back on this campaign, but look at the impact it had," she said. "Look at these company names. Look at things like the CEO of a company responding back how appreciative they were, how much it meant."
One piece of customer feedback stuck especially well with the team, and Vanasse keeps it in her back pocket:
"It just speaks volumes to your corporate philosophy as a company that you're willing to invest in your customers."
- Client Appreciation Week promo
- Thank-you note
- Nomination email
- Corporate Travel Excellence Awards
- Corporate Travel Excellence Award winners
- Business Travel Stories content winners
- Share your idea winners
- Why travelers love Egencia
- Why travel arrangers prefer Egencia
- Why travel managers choose Egencia
- Awaken campaign
Salesforce — used in the Awaken campaign
Marketo — used in the Awaken campaign
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