Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Leisure travel specialist Pentravel continues to report impressive year-on-year growth. Since 2009 its profits have soared by 873% with its first quarter performance (January to March 2017) showing 30% year on year growth. The company attributes this growth to a long-term focus on customer experience.

Since 2009 Pentravel has focused on keeping customers happy, based on the assumption that business will follow customer satisfaction. Pentravel’s focus on customer experience was introduced by former CEO Sean Hough in 2009 despite digital just taking off then.

“What wasn’t factored in by sceptics was just how much people would continue to appreciate good value, experience and service,” says current CEO Paulo de Oliveira. “While technology has certainly changed our industry, our customers still want to be able to sit down with a person, someone who has perhaps already been where they are going, and plan an itinerary that suits their specific needs. They like to know that if anything goes wrong, there is someone they can call who has the expertise and experience to sort it out.”

Now, more than ever, says De Oliveira, customers not only want to get away but are seeking meaningful holiday experiences. “Our aim is to know our customers and make those experiences as memorable as possible,” he says.

It’s an approach that has paid off, given that 67% of Pentravel’s business is repeat and referral business. The company also boasts the highest rating in excellence from Hello Peter, a portal known for its measure of complaints.

“Pentravel is a good case study of how more “traditional” nondigital businesses can grow their customer base by genuinely focusing on their customers’ exact requirements,” says customer experience expert Julia Ahlfeldt. “Technology has without doubt changed how consumers behave, shop, research and browse. A mash-up of online information hunter-gathering, followed by an in-store purchase, is the new norm.” However, she says, though e-commerce is on the rise in SA, consumers still seek out a physical experience, and are becoming increasingly choosy about what that means.

“In–store, customers want an experience that adds value beyond what they can get online. This means tellers and floor staff need to be knowledgeable about their products and be ready to offer advice and recommendations, or be equipped to resolve a customer query quickly and on the spot,” says Ahlfeldt.

She says that though customers are happy to pay for good value, quality and personalisation, they’re quick to change brands when their needs are no longer being met, and are less loyal than they used to be.

The big take-out: A focus on customer experience has ensured that Pentravel continues to report good year-on-year growth, proving that customers still appreciate good value and service.

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