One minute with… Tom Verbugt, Director of E-Acquisition, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Drawing on his background in both technology and sociology, Tom Verbugt’s role involves connecting with KLM customers from all walks of life to give each one a uniquely personalised experience.

For Tom Verbugt, the combination of technology, data and the human side of things is what can truly lead to inspirational insights.

Tom Verbugt is passionate about providing the best possible experience for KLM’s broad customer base. “As an airline, we connect people from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, from South Africa to Chile to America. We have people heading off on their honeymoons sitting next to someone going to a funeral. I think that’s very special.”

For him, the future of marketing is about knowing what the customer wants before they know it themselves. “It’s about figuring out their needs, their preferences, and what happens when they fly with us. For example, if a plane is delayed and a customer misses their connection, it’s our role to provide a perfect solution rather than sending them commercial emails with irrelevant content.”

Digital is at the core of how KLM connect the different touchpoints a customer has during the booking process and before they fly. “To give the customer the best possible experience, we need to understand exactly what kind of flight they’re looking for, when they’re flying, what they’re willing to pay, and the reason for their journey. To do all this, we need data: we need to know the patterns of our travellers, and understand what those patterns mean.” But they also need knowledgeable people and creativity, he adds. “That point where the human interface meets the tech, working together fast and flexibly, is truly mind-blowing. It’s the combination of both that will make the difference in the future.”

Verbugt relishes the fact that everyone likes talking about airlines, and finds it a continual source of inspiration. “You might be on a flight, sitting next to somebody who has a great idea about sustainability. Or you’re at a birthday party and someone tells you about a disappointing experience flying with a competitor. We can learn a lot from these encounters about what customers really want, and there’s so much still to discover about where the world is going next.”

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