The new normals in a world where Covid-19 unfortunately is becoming a part of our life will bring about many changes in the way businesses will be conducted, and more importantly the way we live our life.
In a world post-lockdown where the rules of the game are set to change, or rather have already changed, the way forward for the travel and tourism industry is absolutely in the dark.
The nation-wide lockdown is slowly being lifted across orange and green zones and life is slowly crawling back to a new-normalcy. Businesses and brands are now are making their way back into the business; planning their communication plans for a new world post the covid-19 lockdown.
In this story of Medianews4u’s new brand series, Back to Business, we spoke to Zameer Kochar, VP – Marketing & Member Engagement, InterMiles.
How are you keeping with the times during Covid-19?
COVID-19, resulting in a nationwide lockdown, has impacted individuals, industries, and the economy across the world beyond our comprehension. We all need to relook our strategies basis the transformed consumer behavior to keep up with the times. At InterMiles, we are looking at this as an opportunity to bolster our commitment towards our consumers by undertaking initiatives that ensure relevancy, protection of member interest, and value-generation. As a result, our member engagement activities during COVID-19 continue to empower them as well as enable us to deepen our relationship with them.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes leads to a revision of existing business models. What sort of innovation has or will the COVID-19 pandemic bring to InterMiles?
Since the last few years, we have been working towards creating a platform model, an aggregator across categories. We have been charting our shift over the years to becoming an everyday travel and lifestyle brand. InterMiles is a ubiquitous, digital currency, which can be used across various platforms. As a result, as we steer through COVID-19, we have been successful in offering our members with multiple alternate opportunities. In the current situation, we at InterMiles, are ensuring that our members benefit from the digital experiences that we have customized for them, keeping in mind their peculiar needs at this constantly evolving time. Having our fingers on the consumer pulse, recognizing their requirements, and introducing strong compelling value propositions with a lens of relevancy, high engagement high impact, we have launched a slew of initiatives, considering both simplicity and the speed to market dimension as well.
While InterMiles is a brand that facilitates and enhances brand experiences for customers, what are some of the initiatives that InterMiles took to keep the ‘show going’?
All our initiatives whether in the pipeline or already gone life, have been designed keeping in mind the customer mindset, how best we can engage our member community with initiatives having a strong lens around relevancy in the current situation. We have created a robust ecosystem through which we can reward our members on a regular basis. We have strengthened our partnerships in categories like e-learning, online subscriptions, healthcare, fitness and knowledge series led webinars to name a few. Our constant endeavor has been to create engagement opportunities for our members at all times and bucket them as initiatives under central themes, which are sustainable from a short to medium to a long-term perspective. Our‘Stay Home, Get Rewarded’ series is one such thematic series and going forward looking at the evolving situation, we will continue creating multiple engaging communication themes that will reward our members on an on-going basis.
Real-life experiences for many of your partner brands are in the dark until the Covid-19 situation settles down. What are your thoughts on the virtual experiences that brands are innovating on for keeping the conversation with customers?
The surge in digital content consumption at this time is rapidly transforming how consumers are engaging with brands. Brands need to reinvent and rethink their consumer approach to stay relevant. This holds true for all industries whether they travel-centric or not. Going forward I strongly believe that consumer needs may not completely change as much as the way they want to fulfill those needs. Thanks to the intervention of technology, brands can use the benefits of virtual reality to innovate in their engagements with consumers. Since people are unable to get out of their houses and travel, virtual reality platforms, grant them the opportunity to gain from such an experience while being within the safe boundaries of their homes. As we transcend to the other side of the COVID-era, virtual experiences are due to become the new normal.
While some parts of the country have become Covid-19 free, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are still in a lockdown situation. How are you planning to resume business across cities that are not in Red?
InterMiles is a ubiquitous, digital, rewards, and recognition currency, which empowers its 10 million members to earn InterMiles across 10+ categories. Members can then redeem these accumulated miles for rewards of their choice be it online subscriptions, gift cards, 2500+ merchandise options, fuel, and a lot more.. We have created different business continuity plans and will be adopting an agile approach towards rolling out multiple customer engagement initiatives keeping in mind the evolving consumer behavior in the highly dynamic and changing situation.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown as bringing customers back to you would be difficult? How will you create demand for your partner brands and InterMiles’ brand recall? What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will use to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction?
We strongly believe every journey deserves to be a rewarding one, irrespective of the purpose it fulfills, the experience that it brings or the memories that it leaves you with. With that belief in mind, we created an environment that offers our members access to the widest network of travel and lifestyle partners. This means, that members can earn InterMiles across everything, from everyday services to bill payments to online shopping, fuel, dining and more. As a result, with InterMiles, a member will never need another rewards program. In line with this, our communication and business strategy will continue to amplify how our initiatives are customized basis the consumer mindset.
How do you keep up the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? What kept you positive?
COVID-19 has transformed not only consumer behavior but has also impacted employee behaviors on account of the fear of the pandemic, insecurity about jobs, and adjusting to the new work set-up of working from home. As a result, employees are undergoing multiple shifts in their internal sentiment and emotions. Therefore, positive employee engagement has become more crucial than ever before. At InterMiles, we have been undertaking several initiatives to keep our employees engaged, productive, and motivated.
Maintain productivity levels & keeping employees updated
- Respective team leads are conducting daily stand up meetings to connect with their teams and resolve for any bottlenecks
- Virtual Town halls, weekly team meetings, HR connect sessions, virtual chai breaks are regularly happening to drive high employee engagement
Fostering innovation & encouraging learning
- Recently completed Thinkaton, our business idea contest – wherein employees regardless of department or designation collaborated remotely to think out of the box to come up with various customer engagement ideas keeping the current situation in mind. The initiative saw more than 50% participation across the organization.
- Employees are regularly encouraged to upskill themselves and with this thought, a ‘Think Growth’ channel was launched for employees to crowdsource information on webinars, interesting courses, etc. where they can nominate each other to attend these sessions & upgrade their knowledge. A testimony to this is also the tie-up between Inter Miles & TedX Getaway where one can not only learn but also earn miles, under the brand’s initiative of ‘Stay Home & Get Rewarded’
Help employees feel connected with each other & promote a sense of belongingness
- Once we started working from home, employees were encouraged to share pictures of their work desk at home which would help all of us get a glimpse of their new workspace
- Not to forget the little things that matter like – Birthdays, Service anniversaries are celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm
- We introduced initiatives/ contests where employees were encouraged to indulge in their hobbies and share pics of their sketches, doodles, recipes, etc.
- We understand working parents have a dual responsibility to shoulder, especially with kids at home. To help parents keep their kids engaged we roll out a weekly newsletter with virtual tour worksheets, online learning with the help of games, fun activities, etc.
Support employee morale, reducing anxiety and frustration as much as possible
- In May 2020, the organization declared an extra day of a holiday. This has been planned in a way that alternate weeks in the month are 4-day work weeks and this would give employees the time to rejuvenate over long weekends
- Yoga, creative mindfulness sessions conducted virtually
- Smiles with InterMiles, hosted on the brand’s Instagram page is an initiative to help laugh & unwind not just for employees but also for all our members, customers and social followers
- A string of fun quiz/contests such as Filmy Fridays with employees and their families are hosted, Before/After COVID-19 fun picture challenge, a throwback to their favorite holidays, etc. were a few other planned initiatives.
All these employee-centric initiatives at InterMiles played a key role in keeping me positive and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.