The days of booking package holidays at a local high street branch are becoming a distant memory for the modern day traveller according to new research released by Zendesk, revealing that travellers have adapted to contemporary technology and now prefer to plan trips themselves online.

With just 10% now relying on face-to-face interactions with agents when booking travel, we are seeing a new generation of the ‘independent traveller’. Consumers are instead turning to popular websites such as Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Skyscanner to find all their travel information. The research delved into the opinion of 2,000 UK adults who have been on holiday in the last two years.

To adapt to this new type of traveller the industry needs to remain agile and ensure focus is being placed on key elements of the customer purchase. These include ensuring the power is in the travellers hands as well as, providing a pain free path to purchase, first-rate customer service levels, multi-platform shopping and utilising data driven insights.

Getting customer service right

Its good news that the majority (over 70%) were happy with the customer service received when booking their last holiday. However, there’s still room for development and this satisfaction cannot afford to go lower, as over half of UK consumers (59%) cite customer service as highly important in their choice of loyalty to a brand or organisation.

Flexibility and autonomy are also key. Self-service customer service platforms provide this and mean that users are less likely to need the help function or raise a ticket. These intuitive platforms can answer most questions independently. While users can find answers quickly without having to wait for a response, agents are then freed up to deal with more complex customer service issues.

Engaging with customers in the right place

Three quarters of UK consumers now turn to technology such as laptops, mobiles and tablet devices, to book their holiday. The route to purchase, however, can be far from straight forward, as travellers can often research and purchase various parts of their holiday on different devices.

69% of holidaymakers are now making travel purchases online, this means that customer service platforms must be seamlessly accessible on any device. From traditional phone and email support, to twitter chat functions and online chat services; travel retailers must be ready to engage with customers in the right place, at the right time and via the right device for them.

Data goldmining

Machine learning is not just for the likes of IBM’s Watson. The use of these advancements in technology are revolutionising the way businesses interact with customers and have huge potential when it comes to dealing with the modern day traveller. Our research found that 36% of travellers believe that artificial intelligence will make it easier to book holidays in the future.

As travellers continue to move online, human customer service resources need to be managed effectively. The integration of artificial intelligence into the customer service workflow can reduce low-value repetitive work, allowing the human resources to focus on high-value, complex service tasks that require a personal touch.

Customer relationships can also be strengthened through the correct use of data when it comes to their preferences. Travellers will increasingly expect a personalised, straightforward and tailored service. The goldmine of data every retailer is sitting on, combined with machine learning, is the key to delivering this.

The traveller of the future

It’s clear that holidaymakers are advancing in both their purchasing behaviour and levels of service expectations. To remain competitive in the travel industry, companies must address this and ensure they are maintaining the satisfaction levels required of the ‘independent traveller’.

This evolution is only set to continue as almost half (48%) of travellers believe they will research holiday options using virtual reality in the future and 30% of people believe that future holidays will involve space travel. It is vital that companies prioritise multi-platform services, artificial intelligence and flexibility when it comes to customer service, ensuring complete customer satisfaction.

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