What makes a customer happy, and in turn, more loyal? Customer loyalty programs are ubiquitous in the travel and transportation industry, but many companies are missing out when it comes to truly engaging with the customer and generating greater loyalty, which ultimately translates into higher profits.

Companies should begin by knowing and understanding their customers. A survey by Wunderman, a digital marketing consultant, found that 79% of consumers only consider brands that understand and care about “me” before making a purchase decision. Loyalty programs are especially desirable to millennials, who consider them an important part of their purchase decision and may choose to not do business with companies that don’t offer one.

Much can be done to make customer loyalty programs more compelling for travelers. For one, travel and transportation companies might consider partnering with one another to offer customers special deals. For example, Marriott Rewards and United MileagePlus have teamed up to give travelers that are members of both loyalty programs higher rewards and access to special travel packages.

In the travel and transportation industry, it’s very common for people to talk about the monetization of loyalty programs and there’s been a lot of work going on in terms of loyalty features and functionality. But where we’ve been spending a lot of our time lately at DXC has been less about features and functionality and more about the role that having an effective loyalty system in your ecosystem plays in improving and optimizing sales and service.

Here are five keys that travel and transportation companies should consider when looking to improve their customer loyalty programs:

Real-time data. While much of the focus has been on features and functions, there’s not been a lot of dialogue going on related to how consumer and preference data gathered via loyalty programs can be used in real-time to increase revenue and customer value.

There’s a huge difference in the way travel and transportation operates compared to other mature retail industries – travel and transportation companies are generally not adept at personalizing the buying experience. Amazon, for example, recognizes your preferences, knows what you routinely purchase and how you like to buy those things. The common denominator in a mature client-facing sales and service experience goes back to the ability to make decisions in real-time based on having very effective data. Also, companies need to know how to measure the success of loyalty programs by using key indicators and benchmarks.

Context. To effectively serve customers, knowing the context they are operating in is essential when making a sales or service decision. If an airline agent has a customer in front of them, they need to have the right context of that customer. This means knowing their buying preferences, and the persona that they’re purchasing or traveling under. Travel companies need to appropriately treat customers based on their persona, their tiering status, and the benefits they are entitled to.

One way to address this is to equip a live human engaging with a customer with contextual data about that customer. Also important is how you use that data in an automated fashion when you don’t have an agent sitting in front of the customer. Either way, it’s all about the consuming and provisioning data in ways that help you to understand who that customer is and the context under which they’re operating.

Reduced Complexity. We all travel. As a traveler, what I want is for things to just happen based on who I am and the privileges I have earned. I want it to be easy, but all too often, things like booking a flight take way too many steps.

Make customer loyalty programs easy to use. There’s an opportunity right now for travel and hospitality companies to add consumer value by making things happen in one easy step. Reducing all the complexity and making it easier for the consumer can result in product and brand differentiation.

Speed. Large portions of the industry still operate loyalty programs on legacy systems, whether it’s using mainframes or client-server. While looking at the real-time and data consumption aspects of the ecosystem, companies must also look at the speed at which change can happen. They need to ask: How do we accelerate the ability to make changes in loyalty?

Platform. This is where our ability to integrate loyalty as a service into the platform’s components comes into play. To deliver loyalty as a service, you need to do it fast. You can’t wait months and years for things to happen. Part of delivering it fast is how you deploy with cloud and scalability, and part of it is having an architecture that lets you deliver things rapidly as a service.

There’s a lot of customer information that can be used very effectively if it’s analyzed and consumed at the right level and in real time to start to change some of the outcomes in terms of purchasing behavior. For loyalty, the instantiation of this is starting to talk about loyalty less as a silo and more as a very robust and highly effective source of data to provision to other parts of the ecosystem.

Learn how Scandinavian Airlines is using data insight to drive long-term loyalty with its customers.