Orbitz Worldwide: The Journey to Becoming a Customer Engagement Leader

Orbitz Customer Engagement Orbitz Worldwide is a leading travel website that lets consumers search and book hotels, flights, cars, cruises, vacation packages, and activities. The company’s Flights, Hotels, Cars app was one of 48 apps chosen by Apple to be included in the App Store Hall of Fame and Orbitz.com ranked No. 1 in Online Travel Website Customer Satisfaction in the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Orbitz was one of the big winners at the winners of the inaugural Loyalty360 CX Awards presented Monday at the 4th annual Loyalty360 Engagement & Experience Expo held in Dallas, Texas. Orbitz earned Platinum awards in two categories: Customer Insights and Technology & Trends.

But it wasn’t always the travel industry leader it is today.

The journey has been more than three years in the making, and at Loyalty360’s Engagement & Experience Expo held this week, Stacey Symonds, senior director of customer insights for Orbitz Worldwide, explained the process in a session titled, “Putting the Customer Front and Center: Building the Consumer Insights Function at Orbitz Worldwide.”

“When we set out collecting foundational customer insights in 2010-2011, we figured the good news was that we had nowhere to go but up,” Symonds said. “Mobile was growing and becoming more dynamic. That’s a big change from today. Now, about 33% of our business comes through a mobile device. Technology is changing every day and we want to stay ahead of the curve.”

The journey began for Orbitz Worldwide with collecting and understanding data to gain customer insights. In 2011, Orbitz Worldwide launched the post booking satisfaction survey and a year later launched its Global Insights platform that highlights similarities and differences between countries. A year after that, the company launched the onsite intercept survey that has provided insight on what customers want to accomplish at Orbitz.com.

Symonds said the data allowed Orbitz Worldwide to forge forward with a plan to become a global power in the travel industry.

“We knew we needed top-down support,” Symonds said. “We needed to be customer-centered starting with the CEO. We also knew that we needed our data to be accessible to anyone in the company who has approval. We had to share and collaborate with great partners.”

Today, Orbitz Worldwide has partnerships with companies including American Express and Capitol One.

Analytics has played a significant role in Orbitz Worldwide’s growth. Today, all survey results are housed in a data warehouse, online and offline metrics are linked, and Orbitz Worldwide makes regular presentations and distributions of results with a wide range of collaborators and influencers – not just key stakeholders. The company also holds semi-annual Voice of the Customer reviews with a cross-functional leadership team to talk about past issues and create an action plan.

Building Orbitz Rewards Program

When it came time to build its rewards program, Symonds said that Orbitz Worldwide looked at others in the business, but then took a step back and decided to do something completely original. Orbitz analyzed feedback from consumers to understand other travel rewards programs and more importantly, where it saw shortfalls.

Major insights from customer research found that consumers wanted a program that was free, simple, fast, and flexible. Consumers did not want unreasonable earn and redemption hurdles.

“We performed a lot of pilot testing, gauging our NPS, doing quantitative and qualitative research, and adjusting site visuals and language,” Symonds said. “After the roll out we were still collecting data and still are – looking at NPS and research results for future developments like our most recent – the Orbitz Rewards Visa Card.”

The Orbitz rewards program is the most mobile-centric loyalty program in the industry with customers always earning more rewards by booking on mobile devices. Not only does the program offer unprecedented reward earn amounts in the travel industry, the program is seamlessly integrated into the award-winning in-app mobile shopping and traveling experience.

Up Next for Orbitz Worldwide

Orbitz’s new rewards program has already garnered more than three million members since October. Its app for iOS and Android, as well as the loyalty program, has proven to be a superior product in the industry.

Still, the company is a work in progress.

“We will continue to broaden our tools and techniques,” Symonds said, adding Orbitz is working on more ethnographic research, e-marketing assessments, and eye tracking.

What’s more, the company has just launched a rewards program in Europe and is moving “in a big way” into China.

“We’re also starting to connect customer satisfaction to future value on a more granular level,” Symonds explained. “We’re always improving so we can stay the No. 1 travel website in the U.S. – and beyond.” 

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