When Google Trips recently shut down its platform for consolidated travel booking, it created a unique opportunity for hotels and hospitality services to evaluate and improve the customer experience (CX) of their native apps and websites. With Google Trips no longer an option for travelers, other providers now have the chance to jump in and step up their CX game.
Locking in on a seamless and positive customer experience should be at the very top of the priority list. Good CX doesn’t just drive revenue — it creates brand loyalty, fuels organic growth, and lets you connect more closely with your market.
The global online travel sales industry has been steadily growing year over year, and is expected to top out at nearly $818 billion dollars in 2020. Despite being such a massive industry, it has the highest cart abandonment rate of any online sector. “There are several reasons for this,” according to a report from SaleCycle, “but the longer research and booking process, as well as the high cost purchases, are major factors.”
Since the very nature of booking travel poses a higher risk for cart abandonment, hotels and hospitality services — arguably more than other industry — should be laser-focused on maintaining CX that takes any guesswork or hesitation out of booking.
Here are four things companies should consider when it comes to assessing and improving their CX strategy.
1. Make CX a top priority — or else.
Leading hotels and hospitality services are prioritizing CX and ease of use from ideation through launch as part of their product design, user experience and creative design, and agile development teams.
Companies across industries are embracing this lesson. Microsoft is an excellent example, mandating (at the CEO level) that every employee must talk to the customer on a regular basis. According to research conducted by Gallup, “when organizations successfully engage their customers and their employees, they experience a 240 percent boost in performance-related business outcomes.”
Other organizations are addressing CX by appointing a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) or an executive of a similar title. In addition to managing customer satisfaction, CX executives place a strong focus on company growth, and are responsible for determining priorities within their ever-changing competitive environments to ensure favorable business outcomes.
Companies who fail to prioritize CX by taking actions like those outlined above will be left in the dust. Market research shows that 67% of customers who have a negative brand experience will never come back, and the majority of them will then turn to a competitor.
That being said, it’s important to note that these efforts require ongoing testing to ensure their efficacy. Research shows that up to 93% of customer experience initiatives are failing, so monitoring and measuring your efforts for success — and making changes where needed — is paramount.
2. Tap into real user feedback to identify opportunities left behind by Google.
So, what can companies do to avoid losing customers due to poor experiences? Tapping into real user feedback is a good first step.
Organizations should be combining their quantitative feedback (i.e. Google Analytics, Qualtrics, etc.) to identify specific areas of concern and possible areas for improvement. This can be defined by a drop in some specific metric, such as the customer’s time spent on the website, abandonment of a form or a checkout flow, or dips in signups.
With these metrics nailed down, companies can leverage CX software to understand the ‘why’ behind them, and make informed business decisions based on feedback from their target customers or prospects.
3. Leverage existing customer relationships to drive organic growth.
Once an organization has examined qualitative feedback from customers, they can use that data to define relevant campaign ideas, create customer-driven messaging, and get real-life insights that speak to the issues and concerns of their target audience.
Hotels and hospitality services also have the opportunity to go deeper by exploring micro-campaigns, coupled with ongoing testing (both qualitative and quantitative), to see what’s resonating with their market and drive strategy accordingly.
4. Create brand loyalty by taking a close look at competitors’ shortcomings.
Companies can capitalize on competitor shortcomings by evaluating competitive qualitative research, as well as social media and review-site feedback. Organizations can leverage those pain points as benefits and incentive for users switch platforms and create brand loyalty.
Competitors’ problem areas can drive messaging, guide value proposition, and help define targeted offerings. These offerings can even be personalized and individualized, depending on the speed and versatility of a marketing organization.
Imagine a loyalty program where top-tier participants receive irrelevant or redundant emails — e.g. “apply for our credit card,” when that person has been a cardholder for years. At best, this is a wasted touchpoint with a valued customer; at worst, it’s annoying and could lead to an unsubscribe. The opportunity in this instance would be to identify these customers and target them with more customized offerings and incentives.
Similarly, understanding a particular user experience issue with a competitor website could create a call to action campaign touting the ease of use (especially in that particular area) of the challenger. One example of this is the Delta’s “automatic check-in” function that was put into place as a result of travelers complaining about the multi-step check-in process for other airlines.
CX Looking Forward
The upcoming holiday travel season is another great reason for hotels and hospitality services to take a look at their CX to see where they stand and where they could improve.
With an influx in bookings in the months and weeks leading up to the holidays, now is an opportune time to collect data and gain insights on customer behavior to guide CX strategy for the holidays — and beyond.