The ultimate CRM software guide for tour operators

CRM software in its simplest form is a modern replacement for the old rolodex used to record names, addresses and phone number of contacts. Modern travel agents and tour operator companies should be using CRM software and they should be using it to maximize customer relationships and grow their businesses.
The ultimate CRM software guide for tour operators

In this ultimate CRM software guide for travel agents and tour operators we look at CRM best practice to manage their contact list and leverage this to increase sales and improve customer service.

What is CRM software?

CRM stands for ‘Customer Relationship Management’. Wikipedia defines CRM as “an approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and future customers.”

Notice there is no mention of software in the above definition of CRM. Customer relationship management has been around long before the computer age and involves systematically creating a framework to manage all your company’s customer interactions to ensure that all contact points are identified and the most positive approach is decided on.

CRM software allows you to manage your framework in (hopefully) the most efficient manner possible by (usually) automating a lot of the work. A simple example of this automation is the process of updating a client’s email address. Your CRM framework says you should update the contact card with the new contact details. A good CRM software will also automatically update monthly newsletter list also.

So the first step in working with CRM software is actually to identify what relationships you are having or aim to have with your customers and build a framework to manage this. Only then should you start using CRM software.

It is very common for tour companies to start using CRM software having not worked out why or how and therefore not benefiting.

An underutilized CRM is no different to having a really useless Rolodex (ClicktoTweet)

What customer relationships do you want to manage?

Answering this question will help determine your CRM software needs. The answer to this question used to be simple. Historically, most companies only stored data for clients. The people that bought products or services from them.

With the global reach of the internet and the growth of Inbound Marketing companies now focus on capturing data earlier, starting with a leads first web visit. You may only have an IP address, then an email address and over time you may learn their name and business name. As you learn more information about the contact you start building a relationship and can begin reaching out to them regularly. Offering special deals or more likely educating them about your services and products.
So you need to decide if your business model of
Your chosen CRM solution should allow you to better sell your products and better manage the relationship with clients.

Are you using a CRM already?

Excellent. However so many small tour operator business owners I talk to aren’t maximizing CRM usage to help grow sales. Many say “Im not sure what it does” or “I really need to use my CRM more”. This is mostly due to the time pressure many tour operators work under. There is never enough free resource allocated to sales due to the back office effort required to process pricing and quote documents. TourWriter can help with this but lets not get sidetracked though.
If you have 5000 contacts in your database your CRM should at minimum be sending out 5000 email newsletters a month. You should be tracking open rates so you can target personal follow up calls to the handful of contacts who may have clicked though to an offer you discussed in the email.
This above example forms the basis of how your CRM enables better targeting of contacts and growing sales.

6 Most important CRM software features for tour operators

For anyone who’s looking to increase sales by upgrading to CRM software, here are 6 features that you may want to consider.

  1. A simple user interface
  2. Webforms
  3. Workflows
  4. Integration with your back office software
  5. Cloud functionality
  6. Easy reporting

1. A simple user interface

As with most pieces of business software, staff are going to have to use it at some point. So, make sure it’s easy to use and the interface isn’t filled with options that will make their eyes glaze over when you’re explaining it.
If you can, see if the software you’re considering has a training component to bring everyone up to speed as fast as possible.

2. Webforms

Your chosen CRM will store important contact data. Names, addresses, emails and phone numbers primarily and as time goes by the correspondence between a contact as your relationship with them grows. All relationships start somewhere though and the ability to easily capture details from your website straight into your CRM is critical so ensure your CRM has this.

3. Workflows

Workflows automate repetitive tasks. So once you have the above Webform working ensure you have a workflow automating a thank you email once a new contact completes the webform. Your CRM should have built in ‘what ifs’ to ie. ‘If’ the new lead matches an existing lead dont send welcome reply, instead notify contact owner with a specific task or message. Workflows should also automate standardized follow up tasks or emails thereby saving valuable time.

4. Integration with your back office software

The last thing you need is to double handle data. This wastes time and leaves you prone to errors. Ensure your CRM integrates with your back office software. TourWriter does just this with import/export functionality. Using your CRM to manage the pre-sale better should generate more sales. You then need to be sure you can move data from your front office to your back office efficiently without having to double enter data.
Using TourWriter to streamline your back office process allows you to be more profitable and have better margins. TourWriter does come with basic contact management however any travel business requiring marketing automation and workflows should be looking at dedicated CRM software.

5. Cloud functionality

The cloud really isn’t some strange new technology that only the biggest companies can use, it’s a powerful piece of functionality every company can take advantage of. When CRM software includes cloud functionality, you’re able to effectively eliminate the costs associated with running servers in your office.

6. Easy reporting

At some point – most likely sooner than later – you’re going to need to generate reports from your CRM system. This is a key part of managing accounts and tracking the performance of your business over time.
Your CRM software can play an important role here, as it contains all of the required business and customer data. Make sure you choose CRM software that makes it easy to generate standardized reports and export these reports to formats you can use, such as Excel.
When report season finally rolls around, you’ll be glad you’ve opted for software that doesn’t make it difficult to get the information you need, when you actually need it.

4 CRM software best practice tips for tour operators

I mentioned earlier that many CRM users aren’t not making the most of growing sales. These tips may help.

  1. Take advantage of every feature
  2. Don’t go overboard
  3. Consider software made for your industry
  4. Train your team

1. Take advantage of every feature

CRM software is usually quite powerful, and packed with functionality you might not find until you dig a little deeper. When you first start using CRM software, make sure you understand these different features, both so you can get more use out of it and so you don’t start looking for other tools you don’t need. Look for a system that tracks quote follow ups for example so you can better understand the optimum number of follow ups to close a sale. Don’t be like most CRM users wasting a powerful resource who simply store contact names and phone numbers.

2. Don’t go overboard

This point is sort of a follow-on from the one above. While there are a number of CRM platforms available, don’t seek out the one that packs in every gimmick under the sun – pick the most capable option. You won’t regret having a piece of software that’s easier to use than a more expensive and bloated tool that staff struggle to use. Focus on the requirements of automating the flow of data from your website to your publishing documents or vouchers for example. Or simple workflows to automate sales follow ups until a lead becomes a client. These can really make the difference for companies looking to increase their sales conversion rates.
H3>3. Consider software made for your industry

Again, this point ties into the one I made above. When you’re browsing the available CRM options, consider one that’s tailor-made for your industry. Using TourWriter as an example, this travel software is designed to make creating itineraries and quotes really fast and easy. TourWriter does this by focussing on the unique relationship between supplier and tour operator to ensure communication of all data is as efficient as possible. Your CRM should be managing the unique relationship between you and your potential clients and past clients to ensure you close more sales and get more referrals.

4. Train your team

I know, this isn’t exactly a software feature, but it’s potentially the most important tip. Just like a ship is useless without a skilled crew, so too is a piece of CRM software useless without staff who are confident using it. You need to ensure that your team can put the features to use and get the most out of the system. If possible, see if the software you’re using has training available right from the horse’s mouth – the developer or supplier. As an example, all new TourWriter clients complete an Implementation process to ensure all staff are trained and TourWriter is optimized for their business to ensures our clients get the best Return on Investment.

So, what is the best CRM software platform?

That is the billion dollar question really.

By this I mean the CRM industry is a billion dollar industry lead by software pioneers Salesforce and there are many platforms to choose from. There are literally 100’s of different companies selling CRM software. We use ZohoCRM (since moving from Salesforce recently) as TourWriters CRM and I have personally have experience with CapsuleCRM and InfusionSoft. We have looked at HubSpot and Pardot in the past also. They are all good, and bad. They do mostly the same stuff but there are slight differences.

To get an idea Google Search What is the best CRM software? There will be more than 20 million search results ‘helping’ you to decide.

I think the CRM industry has evolved to a point that many different companies now offer very similar products. The decision on which CRM is best for “you” will most likely be decided on usability and price.

I recommend starting small and up-sizing your CRM as you outgrow it.

There are a number of ultimate guides that compare different CRM software companies and these will be useful but at the end of the day you need to spend time testing your CRM framework to the different CRM platforms available.

What is the best CRM software? The one you actually use! Click to Tweet this

Good CRM software is invaluable

A good piece of CRM software can play an essential role in the success of a business, especially if you’re running a tour company. Integrating with back office software, using TourWriter as an example, will make managing bookings, client requests and generating reports easy. It’s a great option to make managing your business easier, so get in touch if you’ve got any questions or want to find out more!