What we did
The time leading up to the vacation of a lifetime should be about the excitement and anticipation of leaving the mundane details of life behind. Not the hassle of filling out paperwork.
The folks who run REI Adventures, the travel arm of the famous Seattle-based outdoors retailer, wanted their travelers to be able to spend the time before their trips dreaming about watching blue-footed boobies, traversing Machu Picchu, or kayaking through fjords.
But REI Adventures was grappling with an old-school system that required its customers who booked trips to fill out up to nine trip-related forms—by hand—and then send them back via snail mail.
They were mired in a lot of the operational processes, rather than garnering excitement about the trip.
It’s not just that REI Adventures felt like customers had to do a lot of work. Jimenez said the company also worried that its pre-trip relationship with its customers was more about nagging them—for payments, paperwork, and other bureaucratic reasons—than about getting them psyched for the trip.
That’s a far cry from the amazing experience customers get while they’re on the actual trips, noted another solution principal in Slalom’s customer relationship management practice.
So, the travel company decided to call on technology to help. It worked with Slalom to launch new technology that, among other things, allows customers to easily fill out paperwork online instead.
The sweetness of anticipation
Simplifying paperwork may seem like a small thing, but there’s actually science behind the idea of making the time before you go on vacation as enjoyable as possible. A study of Dutch vacationers found that people are generally happier than their peers before they go on vacation, but they aren’t necessarily happier after they return. The researchers speculated that that’s because people like the anticipation of an upcoming vacation, and look forward to the trip weeks or even months before it happens.
REI Adventures’ new system has other advantages besides enhancing anticipation.
The old system didn’t have a way of keeping track of customers’ information from trip to trip, so even the most loyal adventurers got a new mound of papers each time they booked a vacation. And if there was a problem with the paperwork, a game of phone tag could easily ensue.
The new system can keep track of customers’ information, so repeat travelers don’t have to fill out most papers each time they travel. The REI Adventures’ website has also been revamped, so customers can get information whenever they want, rather than just by speaking with one of REI Adventures’ service specialists.
The company built in other ways to help people get excited for their trips. A new portal lets people who’ve already booked a trip more easily see packing lists and other information about their trip. There’s even a countdown clock to tick off the days until departure.
“There’s a lot more information at the customers’ fingertips,” Jimenez said.
Going forward, REI Adventures is hoping to make that anticipation even sweeter. The company is working with Slalom to make sure its website works on mobile platforms, and also to incorporate social media into its systems. It’s also coming up with ways travelers can stay in touch with each other.
Melissa Rainboldt, a consultant with Slalom, said that for many people, it’s been a relief just to not have to deal with those papers.
“Customers are really excited about not having to fill out paperwork,” she said.