E-Mails Lift Customer Service for Aspen Reservations Firm

E-mails sent before and after visitors' stays in Aspen, CO, have boosted customer relations and provided upsell opportunities for travel reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.

Stay Aspen, the central reservations site for Aspen's ski lodges and the town of Snowmass Village, books local lodging, ski lessons and other services as well as airline tickets and rental cars. It started sending automatic follow-up e-mails to customers last fall for the current ski season.

Two rich media e-mails went to about 2,300 people who booked trips through Stay Aspen Snowmass: one immediately after they booked their reservation — to sell corresponding services such as dining — and the other seven days after their trip, allowing them to review their experience.

“We have people who book a year in advance,” said Ned Lucks, technical services manager for Stay Aspen. “They don't necessarily know if they want to take ski lessons or whether they're going to fly or drive. We wanted to create an opportunity to book all those add-on activities in advance. We want to make sure they understand that this is the last opportunity to get this packaging [at a discount] before they get into town.”

In one e-mail, customers who booked a stay at Aspen Mountain Lodge were sent a “Trip Planning Guide” two weeks after making the reservation, featuring links to local dining venues and activities they might enjoy.

The pre-arrival e-mails garner an 80 percent click-through rate as those customers click on one of the “other services” links to get more information or call the venue. Though most customers simply request more information, such as directions to their hotel, in response to the e-mail, about 2 percent buy other services, Lucks said.

“The campaign has been so successful that customers actually arrive at the lodge with a copy of the e-mail and the activities and restaurants they plan to enjoy circled,” according to a statement from EmailLabs, Redwood City, CA. The company developed the e-mails' “trigger technology” used by Stay Aspen's marketing firm, Blue Tent Marketing, which in turn private-labels the e-mail technology for its clients.

The EmailLabs system generates an automated follow-up e-mail based on a customer's response to the original e-mail. The marketer can set multiple “triggers” on when to send the e-mail, such as when a customer opens an e-mail, clicks on a link or submits a form or when a customer's profile matches a particular demographic.

In Stay Aspen's case, seven days after departure, the system sends visitors an HTML postcard with a photo from the lodge and a request to take an online survey. The follow-up message boasts a 20 percent click-through rate, Lucks said.

The feedback helps Stay Aspen improve customer relations because it had lacked a way to gauge how its travel services helped visitors in the past.

“Once people are here, it's hard to get their feedback,” Lucks said. “Once they get to town, their service is in the hands of the lodges and others.”

Blue Tent, Basalt, CO, decided to private-label the technology for clients because with its former e-mail solution the delivery rates, particularly to certain ISPs, were dropping and the company “didn't understand how hard it was to deliver e-mails,” Blue Tent president Peter Scott said.

Blue Tent takes EmailLabs' base technology, then wraps its client's creative around it or resells it to larger clients who want to handle campaigns in-house. About 50 Blue Tent clients in real estate, e-commerce, lodging and hospitality use the private-labeled EmailLabs platform.

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