The travel industry has perhaps never evolved as drastically and in such a short space of time as it has over the past two years. Not only is the size of the market now exponentially bigger, largely due to the entry of Generation Z and their penchant for wanderlust, but several megatrends have emerged that have dramatically impacted every corner of the industry.
Driven by a combination of outside factors such as the fallout of Covid-19, as well as the rapid evolution of digital advancements, these trends include heightened expectations for personalization and a desire for brands to understand customer needs -- and their ability to address them at a moment's notice. As a result, organizations have been challenged to redefine the meaning of a remarkable experience and reevaluate how they can leverage technology to develop deeper connections with customers.
With that in mind, here’s how hospitality leaders are utilizing enhanced communication technology to unlock the benefits of a modern travel experience and reaping the rewards of doing so.
Clearing Blind Spots with Signal Capture
Understanding customer needs and expectations has always been critical for hospitality businesses. But as the industry’s customer base continues to grow – and guests’ standards rise – a brand’s ability to understand their customers' needs in the moment has never had more of a direct impact on their bottom line success.
Historically, hoteliers and their staff have been confounded by blind spots hindering the quality of the customer experience. For example, pre-pandemic research found that 75% of hotel guests say they didn’t report all issues that affect their stay. And a primary reason why they didn’t was because there wasn’t an easy way to do so. Meanwhile, modern organizations solely relying on post-stay surveys for feedback continue to face blind spots that prevent them from establishing a true understanding of their customers, which sadly limits the impact of their guest experience programs. This is because post-stay surveys alone don’t provide enough information to help organizations stay ahead of unique and ever-changing consumer behaviors.
The industry’s rapid digitization means hoteliers can finally eliminate these blind spots. Just as what it takes to deliver an unrivaled guest experience has shifted over the years, how brands can gather insights about consumer behaviors, thoughts, and intentions has changed, too. The emergence of the omnichannel guest experience means hotel staff have more opportunities than ever before to capture rich experience signals across interactions. This new level of data, born of truly integrated systems, not only helps teams to qualify the quality of past guest experiences but it enables them to turn these signals into immediate actions that elicit exuberant, five-star reviews.
In today’s digital-first world, experience signals are businesses’ best tool to capture real-time insights across the entire customer journey. And it’s these insights that can act as early warning signals that help organizations identify issues before they have the chance to hurt their reputation, and spot opportunities to innovate. By empowering staff to act on the real-time experience signals from each customer, from pre-arrival to post-stay and everything in between, companies not only have the opportunity to improve experiences in the moment, but can learn how to stay in front of the customer while delivering tangible business impact, driving loyalty and growing revenue.
Earning Loyalty Through Personalization
Guest loyalty’s direct impact on bottom-line revenue is why every brand is investing so heavily in personalization. It’s also raised the stakes for hoteliers who’ve had to constantly elevate the guest experience in order to keep guests coming back. In fact, just under one-in-three consumers say it’d take just one negative experience for them to walk away from a brand they love, meaning organizations are under immense pressure to deliver consistently superior experiences.
But it’s fair to say that this is a challenge and an opportunity all in one. The reality is, every hospitality brand has had to adapt to the modern traveler’s expectation for it to be able to customize the experience in the moment. And the good news is, some early adopters’ commitment to customer understanding has equipped them to do so. Their customer-facing teams are now more capable than ever to use real-time insights and intelligent communication to engage guests in an instant, as well as instigate those personalized two-way interactions that guests remember long into the future. These interactions include proactive service recovery opportunities, which have become incredibly powerful brand builders.
Key to all this is engaging guests on their terms, and via the communication tools that they prefer. For the modern traveler, this means an omnichannel experience that starts in the booking process with access to web chat and continues seamlessly across their journey. Even more, hotel staff can personalize interactions for their guests across channels, from SMS text to in-app communication, and social messaging apps like WhatsApp. By extending their standards of ‘white glove’ service across all these touchpoints, hoteliers can make their guests feel like they are known, valued, and listened to. And as research shows, 93% of consumers are likely to conduct repeat business with brands that offer these kinds of excellent service interactions.
Equipping the Modern Team
As the hospitality industry continues to navigate its return to opened doors, a new challenge has risen: The Great Resignation. With sweeping lay-offs, a drastic shift to remote work, and other pandemic-induced factors affecting workers across the globe, no industry has been impervious to the impact that the pandemic has had on the employee experience. But the travel and hospitality industries have probably dealt with more challenges than any other sector these past two years, and they’ve had to overcome these challenges while still maintaining the first-rate customer experiences they’re known for. For example, 68% of U.S. hospitality workers say their organization is working with less staff now than they did prior to the pandemic.
Intelligent communication powered by automation technology has been vital in helping companies adapt. With powerful automations, AI-powered messaging helps hotel staff streamline workflows and accelerate service recovery at a time when they’ve been tasked to do more with less. It enables customer service teams to manage multiple conversations with guests at once and automate the resolution of common requests during this current travel surge. And the fact that these well-crafted communications systems work on behalf of staff, means teams enjoy much more efficient operations even in the face of persistent disruptions.
For example, the check-in and check-out process has long been a pain point for hotels. On busy days, lines can get long, staff get overwhelmed and guests either begin or end their stays frustrated. Providing a solution like mobile check-in and -out enables guests to bypass the hassle of going to the front desk, while freeing up time for staff to handle more complex issues. Of course, this also satisfies the modern guest’s expectation for convenient contactless experiences, which research shows is something they want to continue to have options for after Covid surpasses.
It’s fair to say that even with the disruptions that hospitality has faced over the last two years, businesses have risen to the challenge to provide guests with the best experiences possible. Opportunities have opened up for brands to leverage communication technologies to support their employees and of course scale a great customer experience. And as travel continues to evolve, intelligent communication platforms will continue to play a vital role in setting the new standard for an elevated travel experience.