Customer Experience for the Travel Industry
The travel industry is in the business of serving guests around the world through seamless customer experience, marked by hospitality and ease.
Investments in customer experience in the travel industry will facilitate the industry’s recovery from financial setbacks. According to a study published by IBM, companies identified as customer experience "Leaders" outperform the market and generate a higher return than the average S&P 500 Index by 35%. On the other hand, companies that are CX "Laggards" trail by 45%.
Worthwhile investments include employee training; technology that allows guests to self-serve; physical space design; and communication. Together, these elements create a sense of place. And guide customers through that space, along a connected, supported journey.
Why is CX Important for the Travel Industry
At its core, the travel industry is consumer-based. It needs volume to survive. What is the surest way to get that volume? Customer experience that makes customers happy and keeps happy customers coming back.
The hospitality that underscores travel customer experience creates customer happiness and powerful customer loyalty. In fact, customer experience is exponentially more effective than advertising. For the travel industry, positive word of mouth is Its more effective than advertising. Nielsen research says 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any type of advertising.
What is good Customer Experience in the Travel Industry
The path to customer happiness has multiple milestones. Good CX runs through every touchpoint. Customer Experience design for the travel industry starts with understanding customer expectations. In the travel context, customers expect to be taken care of, to enjoy their trip. That may be a day at a theme park, a week on a cruise, or business travel to a tradeshow event. Regardless of the reason for the trip, travel customers desire hospitality.
For travel industry leaders and employees, that requires a mindset of elevated hospitality, marked by ease, caring, and intuitive experiences.
Travel experiences that generate customer happiness and loyalty require customer experience design, technology design and implementation, hospitality training, and consistent, actionable communication (internally among employees and externally to customers).
Good customer experience in the travel industry creates “Wow Moments” and moments of ease. It makes customers feel guided, cared for, calm, confident, and eager to return.
Top 5 Things that Drive Bad Customer Experience
Nothing kills travel experience faster than interactions with individuals who are rude. An employee who does not care about the experience of the guest ruins customer experience. Rudeness is the result of lack of employee hospitality training, or poor hospitality training. Additionally, customers can interpret any interaction along their journey that leaves them feeling unsupported or confused as “rude.”
These interactions arise when an employee (a ticket agent, reception clerk, casino attendant, etc.) lacks the ability to solve a guest’s problem. That inability comes not only from insufficient training, but an employee’s lack of access to technology and tools. In many cases, it also is the result of an organizational culture that fails to empower employees to act on behalf of the customer. Or reward them when they do.
Most bad customer experience in the travel industry is associated with long lines. When you picture bad travel experience, you see endless lines at arrival, at hotel and event check-in, and at theme parks like Disney. Each of these represents a missed customer experience opportunity. Check-in and arrival are key moments on the customer journey. They offer the chance to create a first impression that sets the tone for the overall experience.
Unfortunately, too often, that impression is one of inconvenience, difficulty, and confusion. It is much harder to design experiences to recover from that bad first impression than it is to invest in design, technology, and training to improve the check-in process and create a first impression that generates happiness and loyalty. Transform the check-in experience into a “Wow Moment” by offering seamless technology solutions and personalized experiences.
Cut costs for efficiencies without compromising customer experience. Do not cut so far that food quality goes down. This is a sure road to a bad customer experience and negative reviews. Other areas to focus on quality over cost: hotel linens, concessions in event spaces, and cleaning services in theme parks and casinos. Maintaining quality in these areas makes customers feel safe and comfortable. A safe, comfortable customer stays in the space longer, spends more money, and shares positive reviews.
Slow service is not the result of one employee’s actions. Slow service is the result of understaffing, poor experience design, lack of technology solutions, and insufficient training. Slow service happens when things go wrong, and it leads to bad customer experience across the travel industry.
Access to event spaces is a key example. The failure to design customer experience strategically and deploy technology to empower the customer to sign in independently can derail that customer’s experience, and the experience of the hundreds of individuals behind them in line.
Integrated design means design for all. It is imperative to design travel spaces for families and for individuals with accessibility needs. Physical space design that excludes DEI elements goes beyond bad customer experience. The travel industry is responsible for creating spaces and journeys across those spaces that allow everyone who wants to experience the world the opportunity to do so. Takes the time and make the investments to ensure that you are designing experiences for more than one kind of customer.
How to Measure Customer Experience in the Travel Industry
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS measures whether a customer will come back to your brand. This is a key measurement for all customer experience, and even more important for the consumer-driven travel industry. To get the most of the Net Promoter Score measurement, track customers who say they will return. Learn who comes back and why. From there, model for customer loyalty.
Surveys measure customer happiness at various points along their journey. They are important snapshots of how the lived experience of customers translates to the customer experience you designed for them. A note on surveys, for validity and authenticity, avoid incentivizing survey participation. Instead, make surveys are simple, unobtrusive, and easy to complete. A good example is offering a short, one question interception survey at a key point along your guest’s journey.
Design follow-up surveys to maintain communication and connection with guests, and to measure customer experience and brand loyalty. In all cases, make sure surveys are relevant to your customer. Do not take up too much of their time. Remember, they are giving you the gift of feedback. It is your responsibility to use that feedback to continue to improve their experience and the experience of other customers.
3 Steps to Improve CX in the Travel Industry
Learn How Customers Feel
Conduct a customer experience survey to understand what is driving bad travel experience. Use this survey to find guests’ painpoints. Then, walk in the shoes of your customers. How would you feel along the journey? What do you need to feel guided, cared for, and confident? Take the time to read online reviews across platforms to get an authentic sense of guest experience.
Conduct Hospitality Training
Once you define what YOUR desired customer service is, design and conduct relevant hospitality training. The right employee training helps create an environment of elevated hospitality, ease, and seamlessness. This is the environment in which your employees and customers thrive.
Get Curious about Technology
Look to technology as a customer experience generator. Explore how technology can enable self-service on the customer side and create efficiencies internally. These solutions, along with CX design and hospitality training, help solve the drivers of bad customer experience in the travel industry. They include remote check-in for events and hotel stays that reduce queue size; remote table reservations that improve restaurant experience; and self-service signups for theme park attractions that get your customer to the fun faster.
How to Create World Class Customer Experience with The Petrova Experience
World class customer experience in the travel industry starts with mapping the process of delivering exceptional moments along every customer’s journey. Data-driven approaches set the course for personalized, seamless experiences that create customer happiness and loyalty.
In pursuit of customer happiness and exceptional encounters with travels brands, The Petrova Experience deploys the following solutions:
Customer Experience Diagnostic and Secret Shopper
Customer Experience Program Design & Support
Technology Design and Implementation