Paul van Breugel (CheapTickets.nl): “The will to win is in our DNA”

2018-12-05T18:48:55+00:00April 2016|Airline Ticket, Interview, Netherlands|

CheapTickets.nl was by far the best in the recent online WUA! orientation study of booking a flight to Barcelona (Dutch). Paul van Breugel is VP Global Marketing at Travix International, the parent company of CheapTickets.nl. A conversation about being the best, digital challenges, and personalisation on a large scale.

Congratulations, Paul van Breugel. You are the winner of this study of booking flights to Barcelona. How important is it for you to be the best with CheapTickets.nl?
“We are the market leader in the Netherlands, so we need to be the best. The will to win is in our DNA. Because for us, winning and being the best at the things we do equals growth. We have made specific choices: airlines should be our interlocutors; we need to do things that add value for these parties. But at the same time we have our customers, and they are just as important, or even more important, we want the best for them too, and we want to achieve an extremely high NPS. We are a marketplace, we bring together supply and demand. One the one hand we need to make sure that consumers can find the right trees in the forest in a very pleasant way, and on the one hand ensure that the right trees are actually in that forest!”
You don’t just score high on findability, but also the other topics of the WPS model. And with a WPS score of 73 you are 5 points ahead of the number 2 Transavia.com. What is going so well for you?
“We don’t just say we want to win, we actually DO it too. We believe the experiences and opinions of customers are important. So every two weeks, we bring customers into our office. Each digital concept, every part of the website that we put live is discussed with our customers. Therefore, the type of research you do at WUA! is so important to us: the voice of the customer emerges in this study! Customer-oriented thinking and doing: to us, it is not an empty slogan!

“What’s also going well… We operate worldwide, and we’re doing this mainly from Amsterdam; I can tell you that it isn’t very easy to do this well. Yet we are very capable of achieving synergy, with the following strategy: personalised at scale. We want to be able to help every customer as an individual, but in large volumes, because scale is necessary to survive in this business where margins are under pressure. So we create scale on an international level, and offer a personalised customer experience.”

What is the role of customer research and customer focus in your daily work?
“Strengthening our customer relations and winning the loyalty of our customers is our highest goal. In order to achieve this, we need to measure everything. We started with measuring the NPS after booking, in the past this did not happen. We also use the Usabilla feedback buttons, where the emoticons also capture the emotion of the consumer, so we also receive feedback on functionality. We also do qualitative research, on concept, design, and the after-live phase. Furthermore, one of our main strengths is data analysis of customer behaviour. We see differences between international brands, and I am convinced that this helps us bring individual customer behaviour to the surface. Because we’re always analysing more data, and are getting better at it, we are better able to respond to this individual customer behaviour.”

What is your biggest digital challenge?
“We are growing fast and volumes are high, the pace of developments that follow one other is high in this market. Therefore, we have a huge need for REALLY good people. I think that is a joint challenge, for the whole team: how do we attract the right talent? I am proud that our employee satisfaction is high, our own NPS score is slightly higher than that of our customers. So we have the right people, and they are enjoying themselves. But in order to grow, we’re looking for data-driven marketers, who can collaborate, who are result-oriented as well as customer-oriented, and who also know how to work hard. Yes, perhaps we’re looking for the impossible.

“People who work for us are immediately given more responsibilities than they should have, according to average market figures: we stretch our people by about 3 years, and that really is a nice team effort. Empowerment is important here: we are a flat organisation where the boundaries are clear. Empowering people and wanting to win, it goes hand in hand. With us, interaction designers really have the power to organise our websites properly based on their expertise, customer service staff have all the means to make the customer truly happy. We are agile enough to turn technology into usable tools for the customer.”

How do you view service in relation to sales? Could service eventually become the new sales in the travel sector?
“We provide service. That’s it. Service is our starting point. We personalise the selection of airlines and all other travel partners for our customers. That’s service. We offer flexibility and ease of use. That is also service. If this service generates brand loyalty and brand preference, it leads to sales.”

Are there any other interesting things happening, what digital innovations are you working on?
“We’re going to expand the post-booking customer service much further. We want to facilitate the full customer journey cross channel; we’re going to invest fully in that. We want the right offer at the right time for each customer. This applies not only to the price, which is what everyone thinks of immediately, it is also that piece of proactivity that we provide. Sometimes rates go up or down, and then we have to report that to our customers in a decent way. It’s all about personalisation and relevance: we work hard on this every day!”

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