Attempts to perfect personalisation in travel will fail unless firms employ people who can empathise with customers.
Max Zanardi (pictured), general manager of the Ritz Carlton Istanbul, told corporate travel agent delegates at this week's Advantage Travel Partnership conference in Bodrum, Turkey, more effort should be done to drive loyalty from existing customers and less on acquiring new ones.
"Whatever tools you are using, at the end of the day the human being will make the difference. If the person who inputs the data is not empathetic he will not be able to take advantage of the technology.
"Personalisation is something everyone talks about - nobody knows exactly what it means, but it sounds good.
"For me it means an opportunity to look better than your competitor, but most of all it means loyalty.
"Instead what we do is spend tonnes of money advertising to new customers. We should spend less in marketing to fund personalisation."
Thomas Houriez, vice-president marketing and communications at Sepage, said it was using technology to try to replicate human behaviour.
He said the data analyst skills needed meant cracking personalisation is still expensive but that it will become more affordable in the near future.
Houriez claimed the impact of personalisation tools can be precisely measured with a 10% to 20% impact on revenues already being seen.
"What you are trying to achieve is to make it as human like as possible. It's when is stops being human-like when it starts being creepy. If it's done well privacy is not an issue. In Europe 71% of people are using Facebook.
"Facebook is the definition of the successful personalisation engine. People love it and it seems natural. We have the data to know lots of things but we do not use it because that's not natural. That's where the line is drawn."
Houriez said the mistake many people use is to try to anticipate demand by asking people lots of questions which he said was unnatural.
"The good thing with personalisation and every advanced technology is you can anticipate and get implicit behaviours and you do not have to ask them [customers] something. Successful companies are the ones understanding that. Personalisation has to be implicit."
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