Intrepid Group wanted to take its customers on a more personal journey, as well as lay the foundation for international expansion. To achieve these objectives, the world’s largest adventure travel company underwent a cloud technology transformation.

Given Intrepid Group is built on travel experiences, it’s only natural we would tackle business hurdles with the same adventurous spirit that personifies our brand.

In 1989, two bearded backpackers started Intrepid Travel with a typewriter, a kitchen table and the purpose of providing sustainable, experience-rich travel for small groups.

Fast forward 28 years and the business has come a long way. We now have 1,600 employees, own six tour operator brands and offer more than 2,000 different trips across more than 120 different countries. Each year we take 300,000 travellers to all corners of the globe. Yet, our vision remains the same as when we first started: we want to change the way people see the world.

Two years ago, Intrepid’s founders ended a four-year partnership with a listed company and became independent again. This gave us the opportunity to transform the business, and take our vision of sustainable and experience-rich travel to new international markets. We also wanted to keep inspiring and engaging our existing customer base as they moved through various life stages.

Providing a personal customer experience


Our customers are as diverse as we are, and their appetite for travel evolves over time – something I personally understand. I’ve done quite a bit of backpacking in my time, but now I do more business and family travel. I’m still incredibly passionate about travel – a passion that convinced me to give up a career in investment management 12 years ago and join Intrepid – but my needs have changed over time.

As a travel business, we’d evolved into six separate tour operator brands. But, the customer journey between these brands wasn’t as connected as it could be. We knew that we could leverage our market-leading position and the range of experiences available across all six brands to provide an even better customer experience.

We also knew that we wanted to create and market a service that appeals to our customers individually, delivering the personalised service that consumers more broadly have come to expect.

Providing a personalised service has been an important part of Intrepid’s success over the years. But we’ve grown considerably since the days when our sales team were friends with customers and knew them individually. We no longer had that thorough understanding of the customer that we once did, nor did we have a complete view of the customer journey across the entire Intrepid Group.

This was a challenge that we wanted to overcome in order to grow, better serve our customers and continue to push the travel envelope like we’ve always done. We wanted to return to our service roots in a way, but needed to find a way to do this at a new scale.

Putting customer experience at the core


To provide the very best customer experience, we wanted a common view of our customer, no matter which brand they engaged with. We also wanted to be able to change and personalise the experience based on their individual needs. Enter Salesforce, opening the door to an ecosystem of partners, technology and expertise that supports our vision and growth plan.

Now we have complete transparency and clarity over our customers. We know where they've travelled and how they've booked; we have an understanding of their interests and communication preferences. As a result, we're able to provide a superior and smarter level of customer service, while also streamlining and personalising our sales and marketing efforts.

We know that our style of local sustainable travel is not for everyone – we’re never going to appeal to someone who wants to stay in a five-star luxury resort in Dubai. Now we’re able to be much more targeted with our marketing, talking only to those people interested in grassroots adventure travel.

On top of improving the ROI of our media spend, we can now tailor content to people who do engage with our business. For example, if someone shows an interest in North America, we can enhance their experience by providing relevant information and products, from our entire brand suite, that they’d be interested in.

Finally, as a geographically dispersed group, our people are also able to work much more flexibly and collaboratively. This has been a significant step-change for us, improving our overall efficiency and productivity.

Change management is essential


My advice for others adopting similar technology is to treat it as a change management exercise from day one. You need to be really clear and consistent in your messaging to the business, and up-front about what you’re hoping to achieve. Change can be challenging for some, so it’s important to recognise any resistance quickly, taking the time to understand why it’s risen in the first place and then find a solution.

One of the things we were also very conscious about was making sure our global teams had input during the process, not just head office, along with our frontline staff who’d be using the technology on the ground.

The challenges of a cloud technology transformation


Of course, as with any large transformation project, we’ve experienced hurdles along the way. We came up against three main challenges:

  1. Shifting the mindset of the business: to align with our new vision, we needed to shift the mindset of the business from being product-centric to customer-centric. We’re a company of travellers and sometimes we can get carried away with ideas and innovations. We need to keep coming back to our customers and their wants. This was a big cultural shift.
  2. Tackling skills shortages: initially, our team didn’t have the necessary skills required to implement and use the technology. This meant we had to bring in external experts who could help guide us on best practise, as well as train and develop our core project team.
  3. Centralising sales and marketing efforts: over time, many of our sales and marketing processes have become localised to individual regions. Pulling this back to a centralised system and process required careful consultation with our regional teams.

A purpose beyond profit


Over the next decade we want to continue to grow Intrepid Group with a purpose beyond profit. We raised $750,000 for the country of Nepal and, alongside creating amazing experiences, we want to continue to give back. The technology we’ve introduced has made this, and growth, a whole lot easier. We now have a platform to connect new apps and partners with ease, create the very best experiences (for customers and employees), and forge a deeper connection with our existing and new travellers – so we know what sort of travel experience they want, and can give it to them.

Read more about Salesforce Trailblazers like James, and find out how to get started on blazing your own trail of technological change.