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Four Ways the Travel Industry Can Improve the Customer Experience

From making it easier to discover local experiences to keeping employees happy, there are multiple ways that technology can help improve the customer experience.
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For 2023, leisure, business, and “bleisure” travel have returned to pre-pandemic levels in a spectacular rebound from the 2020 pandemic lows. With companies reinstating travel budgets and many remote workers maintaining some flexibility to work from wherever, travel is back, and consumers are ready to roam.

But one aspect of the travel industry that is still struggling to make a comeback is the customer experience. From higher prices and cancellations to longer wait times and hard-to-reach service agents – the travel customer experience is riding the struggle bus, and every bump and detour creates friction and disappointments for its customers. 

Adding insult to injury, many hospitality brands are struggling to improve the customer experience simply due to continued staffing shortages. This is a dive into how technology can address these challenges and empower travelers with self-directed resources.

For hospitality brands, these disappointments should be viewed as very serious concerns. In fact, most travelers say they will switch travel brands after just one or two poor customer service experiences. So, if an American Airlines traveler arrives at their destination and their luggage doesn’t, they are likely to fly Delta next time with the hopes that they and their luggage share the same arrival time.

To that point, travelers want and deserve better – and they know it’s possible. From putting Airtags into checked bags to a record number of applications for TSA and Clear pre-check, two-thirds of customers say they believe technology advancements will improve their relationships with travel and transportation companies.

So, the question facing travel brands is this: Where should hospitality brands invest their efforts to make the greatest positive impact on the customer experience? Let’s look at four areas to help create a more seamless and tranquil experience for customers that will result in retention and, eventually, brand loyalty.

Elevating the Local Flavor 

Travel is about exploring and connecting with new places and people. While most travelers have technology at their fingertips, they still look to hospitality brands as gateways into the local communities in which they are visiting. Hotels and transportation companies must deliver on these expectations and provide dynamic ways to connect customers to local arts, dining, entertainment, nature, and outdoor experiences.

While brochures in the lobby promoting local tours and excursions are an old-school tactic, providing more one-to-one options through technology can be that bridge. Consider the experience of unlocking a hotel room and being greeted by the television that welcomes the guest by name. Not only does that personalization make a guest feel more comfortable, but on-screen browsing options that include attractions, places to eat, and other helpful tips can make exploring much simpler and more inviting. 

Now, take that effort one step further and consider asking guests for personal preferences ahead of time. This can lead to customized on-screen options and elevating the overall experience to make guests feel truly cared about and listened to from the moment they walk into their room.

Improving Efficiencies Through Technology 

The pandemic drove innovation in touchless, seamless, efficient, and easy-to-use technology enhancements that were designed to make travel more sanitary and in turn, easier. While the human touch cannot be replaced, brands should continue to push forward in this direction to maintain and elevate convenience. 

For example, the Q1 2023 Digital Turbine and Apptopia BRAG report states that consumers trust the Marriott Bonvoy travel app and have such a favorable opinion that they would refer it to a friend. The Bonvoy app features touchless check-in and keyless entry, and has a simple chat function that can connect a guest directly with a service member who can answer questions ranging from Wi-Fi connectivity to room service options (and at the same time, there is still a friendly face at the check-in counter to answer questions and offer plastic room keys for those seeking a more “traditional” experience).

Keeping Employees Happy So They Can Create Happier Experiences

While this should go without saying, when referencing the hospitality industry, travel and hospitality brands must look inward to ensure their teams are cared for in a way that enables and empowers their teams to create positive experiences for customers. This includes ensuring employee priorities such as equal pay, reasonable time off, and working conditions are fairly maintained and addressed.

For example, Delta Airlines recently instituted a policy change to ensure flight attendants are paid for boarding time and not just while in-flight (which is the industry standard). Unpaid employees are often unhappy, so fair compensation can easily change the demeanor of the customer-facing associates who ultimately shape consumer opinions of the brands they represent.

Adapting Hospitality for Up-Leveled Experiences 

Ever heard of the story of a Ritz Carlton guest requesting a bedside photo of her favorite Peloton trainer to ease her mind during bereavement travel? The Ritz delivered, and that guest shared her “over-the-top” satisfaction with her almost 500K “friends” in the Peloton community group.

Since every traveler has unique expectations, making it simple and easy to customize certain parts of their experience based on their own needs and preferences goes a long way. Not only do these little touches show that a brand cares about its guests, but it also brings back that genuine touch of empathy that so many experiences are lacking.

Travel continues to evolve post-pandemic – as a result, travelers are savvier than ever and expect elevated experiences. Hospitality brands that can bring a more personalized, one-on-one touch, use technology to enhance the customer experience, and meet or exceed customer expectations will retain that customer loyalty in the long run. Those brands that don’t put travelers first will find their customers disappointed and jump ship for the competition.

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