Multi-channel customer experience key differentiator in travel industry

With Brexit looming over the Sterling-Euro exchange rate and Brits increasingly worried about what this will mean for their European summer holidays, traditional mid-range holiday destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece begin to look less appealing. Should these considerations translate into fewer holidays booked, travel operators’ bottom-line is bound to suffer. Certainly, these concerns are likely to increase the volume of enquiries to travel operators who will have to be equipped to respond to customers’ various queries efficiently, rapidly and across an array of communications channels.

Another scenario that could materialise sees customers that have paid top dollar for their once-cost effective holiday feeling more pugnacious than ever about adverse events during their holiday and becoming increasingly likely to voice or air a complaint. In short, 2017 sees many conditions that could easily brew up into a perfect storm for operators that have not prepped their customer experience processes.

Specifically, operators need to be aware that today’s customers are connected 24/7 and use a range of touchpoints to research, enquire and eventually book a holiday. In fact, they may use a different touchpoint for each of these activities. So if a customer prefers to browse a digital brochure, look locations up on an app and then decide to purchase on the website, travel businesses need not only to be able to track this journey, intervening at the right time with offers or calls to action to drive a purchase, but they also need to be able to pool any information relating to the customer journey in one repository ready for their customer experience agents to query and refer to in case a customer gets in touch directly.

Of course, there are a range of ways in which a customer can get in touch with a company directly and while some may be easily automated - such as online artificial-intelligence powered chatbots - many others are far more effective when a live agent is involved. Specifically, a study by Accenture shows that 82% of consumers who switched providers say if companies could provide better live or in-person support, they may have retained their business. Providing live agents with an up-to-date organic view of the customer journey ensures that they are able to provide rapid resolution, improving brand satisfaction and also helping avoid racking up expensive staff hours spent trying to access unavailable customer information; people are often a company’s biggest cost.

Finally, in an age where customers are constantly connected it’s important not to overlook the role of social media in the channel mix. On the one hand travellers are quick to post images and complaints to their following if aspects of their holiday are not up to scratch, on the other through there is a silver lining as customers who receive responses to a complaint on Twitter are 30% more likely to recommend that brand to others. Monitoring social media interaction and being able to integrate it into the customer experience process is becoming increasingly important.

In conclusion, although evolving technology is playing a pivotal role in allowing travel companies to provide their customers with more choice, more channels and more touchpoints, it is important for businesses to invest in improving customer experience especially as the market becomes more volatile. Specifically, understanding the importance of offering channel choice to customers and respecting that choice by providing top-notch customer experience across a range of media is vital.

Finally, although the role of digital channels such as social media is growing, it is important to note that live agent contact is still a key part in the mix so travel businesses should beware opting for total automation of the customer exerience. This is especially true when someone is looking to resolve a problem. Both live and automated interactions need to be connected and seamless to guarantee great customer experience and to avoid damaging brand reputation.

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