Marketing Cloud, Trailhead...
SkiDeal is building a mountain of innovations on the Salesforce platform
Picture it: you’re standing on the pristine white slopes of one of Europe’s luxury ski resorts. Skis (or a snowboard) at your feet and a stunning week’s holiday ahead of you – with a packed itinerary of activities, adventure and R&R.
And, because you’ve booked your trip with SkiDeal, Israel’s leading ski holiday operator, everything is taken care of: from your flights and airport transfers, to your hotel and transport, excursions and equipment, restaurant reservations, activities for the kids...even your personal on-site guide.
SkiDeal fine-tunes over 20,000 personalised vacation experiences for customers every year. And while the operation looks effortless – and feels seamless – from the outside, there’s a lot going on under the hood. “Our business thrives on customer-centricity at scale,” says Ronen Katz, CEO and founder of SkiDeal. “And Salesforce is the digital backbone that makes it all possible.”
The path to Salesforce
Today, SkiDeal’s whole operation is built on Salesforce – their sales, marketing, communications, customer relationships and service delivery functions are all integrated by a single Salesforce platform. But it wasn’t always this way. “Before 2015, our CRM was an Excel spreadsheet,” says Ronen. “That was manageable when we had fewer customers, but it was clear we couldn’t scale the level of personal service we were getting known for manually.”
SkiDeal needed a CRM fit for growth. So Ronen consulted with people he trusted on technology – and heard the same advice from everyone. “Five years ago people kept telling me: ‘Salesforce isn’t just a good CRM, it’s the best CRM’. Today I think about Salesforce the same way I do about seatbelts in a car – I’d be unnecessarily jeopardising my customer experience if I didn’t use Salesforce.”
The CX ascent: automation, integration, and remote working
With the help of a local implementation partner, SkiDeal integrated their whole operation with Sales Cloud and Service Cloud in a matter of months. It didn’t take long for their Salesforce environment to become the central junction between their website,app, ERP system, sales and service teams, and contact centre.
“Almost overnight we had a foundation to standardise, automate and scale an efficient and high-quality sales and service experience. Sales Cloud means everyone has a 360-degree view of every customer relationship. And because Service Cloud connects our ERP and FAQ databases, everyone is equipped to answer any query about any existing or prospective customer vacation – from flight schedules to local restaurant reservations.”
Integration with the contact centre means the sales process is smoother and more consistent too. Now the second an agent hangs up a call, their sales manager is notified, the client gets an automated follow-up email and the service manager is updated via a real-time dashboard. “We’re in a position to scale the same premium service to 1,000 customers as we are 20,000. “Connecting our operations through a central Salesforce platform set us up for home working very quickly – which, looking back, was very fortuitous,” Ronen continued.
The route to a customer-centric innovation platform
These early operational improvements were a promising start, but SkiDeal wanted to leverage Salesforce to innovate and elevate CX for customers during their vacation, starting with the SkiDeal app. In Ronen’s words, the SkiDeal app is “the first (and maybe only) Ski application in the world that is built for customer service over selling.”
The SkiDeal app curates the SkiDeal holiday experience for every customer while they’re there. From local information to live video feeds of the slopes, to recommendations for restaurants and attractions, to coupons for stores and excursions, to equipment hire, weather and safety updates – and of course, a direct line to their local guide.
“Everything is enabled by the Salesforce platform. The SkiDeal app pulls together customer information from Sales Cloud and holiday information from Service Cloud,” explains Ronen. “Everything is tailored – two people at the same destination could get completely different experiences depending on what’s most relevant and useful to them.”
Traversing a communications crisis
Few industries have been as disrupted by COVID-19 as travel and tourism. But Salesforce has helped SkiDeal turn the downtime of 2020 into an opportunity to keep innovating.
“In March, 5,000 of our customers cancelled their holidays,” explains Ronen. “We knew we’d be dealing with a huge volume of complex inbound inquiries for months to come that would be impossible to handle with our traditional contact centre capacity.” Fortuitously, SkiDeal integrated WhatsApp with their Salesforce environment early in 2020. This meant by March, contact centre agents could field a huge volume of complex in-bound enquiries quickly and efficiently.
“Every agent gets a real-time synced view of the chat history and all attached customer data within the WhatsApp interface, so they can resolve issues in real time. WhatsApp quickly because our preferred communication channel — today it accounts for over 40% of our customer interactions.”
Racing towards AI
Before the crisis, SkiDeal had been experimenting with a WhatsApp chatbot solution to answer common customer queries. But when customers started cancelling holidays in huge numbers, it wasn’t ready to deploy. Fortunately, a colleague at SkiDeal told Ronen about Einstein Bots for WhatsApp.
“When I heard Salesforce had a chatbot solution, I told my team to start implementing it right away. By this point, if Salesforce made it, I know I can trust it,” said Ronen. The team quickly set to work — building data integrations, inputting logic, building conversation trees and refining sensitive responses with a specialist copywriter to handle the sudden influx of urgent enquiries.
The hard work quickly paid off. Through the included dashboards, SkiDeal could see the chatbot can increasingly take conversations from point A to point Z with no human intervention necessary — massively increasing the volume of enquiries SkiDeal can process, and helping agents escalate and prioritise communications that need a human touch.
“We initially needed the chatbot to help us handle 5,000 cancellations,” says Ronen. “But through the Einstein Bot, I know that if 10,000 people contact us in a day, we’ll be ready.” SkiDeal survived the crisis, and Ronen thinks Salesforce’s solution made all the difference. He says: “I really believe that Salesforce saved our company.”
Getting personal (with an audience of millions)
After using Sales Cloud and Service Cloud to drive great CX throughout every customer interaction, SkiDeal adopted Marketing Cloud in 2018 in order to bring the same personalisation to their marketing communications.
“Prior to Marketing Cloud we ran everything manually. Our customers are very discerning — it’s no good advertising a skiing holiday to a snowboarder, or a luxury package to someone who wants adventure. It was incredibly hard to reach the right people with the right message,” said Ronen.
“Suppression was just as hard”, Ronen continued. “I think we probably spent around 10% of our budget advertising holidays to customers who’d already bought a package. It wasn’t just a waste of money, it made our customers feel like we didn’t know them.”
With Marketing Cloud (and its dynamic database) in place, SkiDeal can now create personalised, responsive advertising campaigns in multiple languages, ensuring that customers and prospects get automatically tailored creative and messaging.
Growing with no compromise
Ronen believes that for SkiDeal to succeed in the global village it has to stand out – and being a one of a kind company means treating customers like they’re one of a kind.
“The way you treat your customers as a company reflects your DNA,” said Ronen. “And our DNA from day-one has been to do everything we can to give our customers the perfect holiday for them. We’ve got major international ambitions, and Salesforce is going to be invaluable in helping us launch the SkiDeal brand for the US, UK and Danish markets.”
Using Salesforce has enabled SkiDeal to grow and innovate while retaining that DNA. As a result, more customers than ever, from both Israel and beyond, can look forward to enjoying life on the slopes, stress-free.
“Salesforce has made it possible for us to grow in pursuit of our vision. We owe Salesforce a lot. Without Salesforce we couldn’t have become what we are today, and we couldn’t become what we’re aiming to be in the future.”