La Vacanza makes personal contact with online customers using IBM Lotus Sametime instant messaging

Published on 07-Aug-2009

Validated on 10 Jan 2014

"Metaware is an excellent partner for our business – its consultants are able to translate our business needs into simple, affordable technical solutions, and give us access to IBM technologies whose reliability has been tried and tested by much larger companies." - Jeanette Kampman, founder of La Vacanza

Customer:
La Vacanza

Industry:
Travel & Transportation

Deployment country:
Netherlands

Solution:
Small & Medium Business, Customer Relationship Management, Smart Work, Social Business for Customer Service, Social Business for Reinventing Client Engagement, Social Business, Business-to-Consumer

IBM Business Partner:
Metaware

Overview

La Vacanza is a small travel agency based in Hoogeveen, The Netherlands, which specialises in arranging accommodation in Italy for Dutch and Belgian holidaymakers. The company has more than 150 properties on its books, including apartments, villas and farmhouses throughout mainland Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.

Business need:
La Vacanza needs to offer rapid, personal and friendly service to holidaymakers across the Netherlands and Belgium – but the company operates entirely on the Web and has no face-to-face contact with its customers.

Solution:
Metaware, an IBM Business Partner, helped La Vacanza integrate IBM Lotus Sametime instant messaging into its Web site – enabling staff to interact with customers online. The site is maintained via a user-friendly content management system built on IBM Lotus Notes and Domino.

Benefits:
Lotus Sametime helps La Vacanza provide personal, responsive service: up to 20 percent of customers first contact the company via instant messaging. Lotus Domino content management system helps non-technical staff update information and pictures on the Web site.

Case Study

[Click here for a Dutch version of this case study.]

La Vacanza is a small travel agency based in Hoogeveen, The Netherlands, which specialises in arranging accommodation in Italy for Dutch and Belgian holidaymakers. The company has more than 150 properties on its books, including apartments, villas and farmhouses throughout mainland Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.

Jeanette Kampman, the company’s founder, explains: “I worked in the travel industry for some years, and I was frustrated by how bad the big travel agents were at customer service. I decided to set up my own business to find really good holiday accommodation in Italy for Dutch travellers. It started out as a hobby at first – but it soon it became a full-time job.”

Running a small business online

La Vacanza has just two employees – one of whom works in Italy for most of the year – and unlike traditional travel agencies, it does not maintain a sales office for customers to visit. The company’s entire business is handled over the phone, by email, or online via the www.lavacanza.nl Web site.

“The Web site is critical to the success of our business – without it, customers would hardly know we existed,” comments Jeanette Kampman. “Since we don’t have a physical presence on the high street, our online presence is our main way of communicating with customers and showing them what we can offer.”

Simplifying Web content management

The original La Vacanza Web site was designed and maintained by an external consultant. This was not an ideal situation, because every time the company wanted to add new content, it had to make a change request and wait for the site to be updated.

“We wanted a way to manage the site ourselves, but we didn’t want to have to learn about the technical side of creating and maintaining Web pages,” says Jeanette Kampman. “We asked for advice from a consultant from Metaware, and he proposed building a simple content management system on the Lotus Notes and Domino platform.”

The Metaware consultant helped to design and implement a Lotus Domino application that enables the creation and publication of new Web pages using predesigned templates – enabling non-technical staff to add information, pictures and other content to the site without any need for Web design skills or programming knowledge.

“The Web content management application from Metaware helps make it easy for us to keep our Web site up to date with the latest, most exciting information about our Italian holiday destinations,” says Jeanette Kampman. “We use the Lotus Notes client for email and calendaring too, so it is a very familiar interface for us, and very user-friendly.”

Introducing instant messaging

Following the success of the Lotus Notes and Domino solution, La Vacanza asked Metaware to extend it further – to introduce Web-based instant messaging.

“We had seen instant messaging on some large companies’ sites, and wondered if it could be an option for us too,” comments Jeanette Kampman. “Metaware helped us to integrate IBM Lotus Sametime into our existing solution to provide this functionality – and it has already made a huge difference to our business.”

Faster, more personal customer service

With instant messaging on the Web site, customers can connect directly with La Vacanza staff, who can provide immediate answers to any questions they may have about accommodation, availability, or general information about holidaying in Italy.

“Before, we used to receive questions by email, and although we always answered them quickly, the customers might not actually receive the information until the next time they checked their email inbox – which might be a day or even a week later,” says Jeanette Kampman. “With Lotus Sametime, they get an instant answer, and this can often lead to an immediate booking. In fact, around 20 percent of our new customers now make first contact with us through instant messaging.

“Apart from the speed of response, the online chats that we have with our customers show them that we really know and care about Italy and the accommodation we provide for them – unlike the impersonal service provided by most of the larger travel agents. This is a key differentiator, and it is helping us build up a group of loyal customers who come back to us year after year.”

She concludes: “Metaware is an excellent partner for our business – its consultants are able to translate our business needs into simple, affordable technical solutions, and give us access to IBM technologies whose reliability has been tried and tested by much larger companies. With Lotus Notes and Domino and Lotus Sametime, we have a platform that enables us to run our whole business online and keep costs low – without compromising on customer service.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
IBM Sametime, IBM Notes, IBM Domino

Legal Information

IBM United Kingdom Limited PO Box 41 North Harbour Portsmouth Hampshire PO6 3AU The IBM home page can be found at ibm.com IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Domino, Lotus, Notes and Sametime are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at http://www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Other company, product or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. IBM and Metaware are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Metaware makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts,or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models. © Copyright IBM Corp. 2009. All rights reserved.