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Customer experience is key to travel’s recovery

Why is customer experience so important?

There are lots of well-known statistics that demonstrate why customer experience is a key factor in business success. For example, you might have read the Walker Study that says customer experience will soon become a more important brand differentiator than costs or even the products/services themselves.
But travel has another factor that lots of other industries don’t have to contend with: emotion. After close to two years (or potentially longer) without a break, the first holiday post lockdown is going to be an emotive occasion for most. As such, customer experience will play an even more important role in helping you win the battle for business.
The Harvard Business Review found that 12% of customers can be classified as experience first, meaning they prioritise the experience of their purchases over everything else. But there are other factors to consider in this new age of travel.

Making smart alignments

Travel companies do not work in isolation. If you’re a travel agent, your customer experience parameters stretch far beyond your office. The hotels, airlines, transfer companies and insurance providers you work with all have a big impact on your brand, even if you have no control over how they operate. But you can ensure that the brands you work with share your approach to customer experience.
For example, if your core customer is older and likely to have more Covid-related concerns, it’s in your best business interests to align with companies that help you offer a service tailored to them. 25% of consumers now spend with a health-first approach, choosing products and services that they trust to keep themselves and their families safe. So if you want to appeal to them, prominent safety messaging and comprehensive reassurances are a must.
To succeed, KPMG says it will require “co-ordination of the whole ecosystem that impacts the customer journey” from companies across the travel industry. One way you can offer a joined-up experience to your customers is by ensuring you take an omnichannel approach to CX. Pushing the same reassuring and consistent messaging across all socials and at every customer touchpoint will leave no room for ambiguity about where you stand.

More selective than ever

According to Vrbo’s 2021 Trend Report, 33% of customers are planning to spend more on their next trip than they normally would. 65% say they’re planning to travel more and 56% are also more likely to take the plunge and go on a bucket list trip. But if they’re willing to spend more, customers are also likely to expect an even higher standard than usual.
To attract high-value customers, or encourage regular customers to up their spending, it’s vital that your customer experience is up to scratch. A clunky, slow website and slow loading times won’t paint your brand as one that’s worth spending thousands with.
Another vital area of your customer experience is making sure you’re prioritising excellent customer service. Mistakes aren’t always terminal for customer relationships, as 80% of customers say they’d be willing to give a brand a second chance if they rate its service team as “very good.” But just one in five would feel as forgiving if they felt the customer service they’d received was “very poor”.

“COVID-19 has brought forth a consumer that is more thoughtful and selective in their decision making.”
-KPMG, Customer Experience in the New Reality

Getting in early

Travel will not enjoy the bounce back other industries have been fortunate enough to experience and the scars of the pandemic will be visible for many years to come. Yet demand is steadily returning and many businesses are looking to lay the foundations now for years of success.
If you’re still experiencing levels of demand that are lower than usual, this is a great time to invest your resources in improving your customer experience. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and understand what their primary concerns are, both Covid-19 related and not.

Here are some things to get you started if you’re feeling overwhelmed:

  • Is your Covid-19 related messaging clear? Are you signposting customers to areas of your site where they can get their FAQs answered or organise vital testing?
  • Does a key component of your site need work, such as page load times?
    Are customers able to access self-service support if your team get backed up with work?
  • Is there interesting content on your site to add value to the customer experience and boost your brand’s reputation?

A great customer experience

Travellers want to be empowered and facilitated rather than confused and stressed as they make their return to travel. As companies continue to work around Covid travel protocols, it’s their responsibility to shoulder the stress and make sure the customer experience remains a positive one.