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Winner of three prestigious industry awards

YHA: Putting customers first in a digital world

IndigoBlue has worked with the YHA since 2010 to develop and implement a strategy to embrace digital technology fully in order to provide the best possible experience to customers, resulting in reduced administration costs, a significant increase in bookings (particularly via mobile) and multiple awards in recognition of the programme's success.

COMPANY BACKGROUND

Founded in 1930, the YHA (Youth Hostels Association) is a charitable organisation, providing hostel accommodation in England and Wales. It is a member of the Hostelling International (HI) federation and works in various fields, including youth activity, the environment, education, organisations within the voluntary sector, and national government and local government. The YHA runs a network of 200 youth hostels, bunkhouses and camping barns, employs over 1,200 staff and has an annual turnover of over £50m.

The challenge

Following the appointment of Chief Executive, Caroline White, and a new executive team, IndigoBlue was engaged in January 2010 to review the organisation, and develop a strategy to support the Customer First business-change initiative. Key challenges we identified in the review were:

  • Legacy Portfolio: a range of legacy systems provided by different suppliers with complex integration
  • Resilience: in addition to the need for high-availability online systems for end-user access, the booking systems are also used by staff in the most remote locations

Our approach

IndigoBlue consultants worked closely with the YHA to understand its business and its aspirations, and made a number of far-reaching recommendations for business change and business systems support. Importantly, we identified a number of opportunities to remove perceived technology constraints in order to enable YHA to introduce changes previously not thought possible.

The core recommendations of the change programme included the retention of the legacy property management system (including bookings) but importantly provided a roadmap to support:

  • improved joined-up processes between membership, customer relationship management and hostel customers;
  • the use of channel partners with integrated online support (e.g. laterooms.com);
  • process changes in the call centre to facilitate central management of group bookings; and
  • online support for itinerary bookings

Importantly, the changes focused clearly on customer experience and supporting growth, particularly through online channels. This was balanced against the resource constraints of the charity.

The strategic recommendations were accepted and IndigoBlue then supported the development of an incremental delivery plan for the business and technology change programmes and the identification of partner organisations to deliver the technology aspects of the business change. Additionally, IndigoBlue’s lead consultant was appointed to the programme steering board to provide oversight.

The outcomes

  • Clear, tangible benefits: bookings increased by 43%, mobile bookings by 300%
  • User experience key: online booking systems targeted at a broad demographic range, including 800,000 annual international travellers
  • Winner – Web Marketing Association WebAward 2012 for Outstanding Achievement in Web Development
  • Winner – UK IT Industry Awards 2015 for Best Project in the Not for Profit Sector
  • Winner – UK Agile Awards 2015 for Best Project in the Not for Profit Sector

The change programme commenced in March 2010 and completed in the summer of 2012. Early deliverables immediately demonstrated significant benefits, including a 7% year-on-year increase in bookings, which was directly attributed to new partner channels.

The solution designed by IndigoBlue provided a platform for future enhancement and growth – an important consideration in a changing digital world. Subsequent to the completion of the programme, IndigoBlue has continued to provide technology leadership to the YHA, and remains a part of the steering team.

Under the guidance of this team, the YHA has been able to make evidence-based decisions to leverage the flexibility of the platform and continually refine both their offerings and their online presentation. In January 2014, the YHA was able to report increases in year-on-year online bookings of 25%.

That, however, was only the start:

  • Bookings for January 2015 were nearly double that of 2013 (a 43% increase)
  • Call times in the call centre have reduced by 12%, whilst bookings have remained constant
  • Bookings on mobile devices have increased by 300% during the last year

How we support digital service strategy and design

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