Going on vacation is a treat that most people spend time planning and eagerly anticipating. This means that once they arrive at their destination—whether near or far—they expect to have the best possible experience that not only meets their expectations, but possibly exceeds them.

But the customer experience starts before strapping on the seatbelt, whether on a plane or vehicle, and arguably even before booking the trip. Only by exceeding expectations and creating a personalized experience can organizations ensure they transform one-time customers into return guests who are also advocates for the brand.

An important step for organizations to be able to deliver this personalized experience is to understand their customers, and this is a process that Vail Resorts takes very much to heart. According to Darren Jacoby, the company's director of CRM, Vail Resorts knew who was vacationing at the company's seven ski resorts, but wanted to expand its knowledge to understand why visitors were choosing to spend their vacations at these properties. Last year the organization embarked on an in-depth exercise that segmented customers based on their attitudes, creating five distinct personas: Alpine Alistair, Village Sophisticate, Shred Heads, Fresh Tracks Family, and Cruise Alongs. "We start with these personas and understand who the customer is," Jacoby explains.