Customer experience continues to be a significant differentiator for businesses in all sectors. However, for some industries, the ability to offer excellent interactions could be the key to survival.
During the last couple of years, the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions have disastrously impacted the travel and hospitality sector. Consumers are willing to return to the industry when lockdowns and rules soften, so companies must work harder to regain trust.
While 2021 performance in the travel sector improved over 2020, it’s still 35% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
To revive a sense of excitement and opportunity in the “experience” industry, brands must rethink everything they thought they knew about CX strategies.
Using CX to Revive Travel and Hospitality
Travel and hospitality companies are responding to unprecedented change on a global scale. Over 2020 and 2021, everything from how we book trips to the countries available for travel began to turn upside down. Consumer trust dwindled to practically nothing, and endless flights, train trips and busses were cancelled.
Now, we’re heading into a future where the travel and hospitality industry may be able to start a slow yet steady path to recovery. However, industry experts like McKinsey believe this revival will only be possible if built on a solid foundation of customer experience.
Brands of all sizes must consider how they can tailor their services and products to suit a new series of priorities and demands from their target audience. Just some of the significant challenges facing travel and hospitality groups today include the following:
- Trust and safety: Even when the threat of the pandemic begins to subside, it will be years before consumers feel entirely safe travelling to different locations and accessing hospitality services. Companies must ensure they’re implementing as many tools as possible to serve their customers in a way considered safe, hygienic, and trustworthy.
- Evolving rules and regulations: Aside from staying up-to-date with consumer expectations, hospitality and travel companies must also ensure they follow the latest rules and regulations introduced by local and national governments.
- Distributed teams: Hospitality and travel companies have long worked with highly flexible, distributed teams, working in the field, on the floor, and face-to-face with customers. As we head into the future, these teams will continue to grow increasingly versatile, with more people working remotely and in mobile environments.
- Omnichannel communications: Customers increasingly seek ways to communicate with their travel and hospitality solution providers. This has led to the introduction of more two-way messaging experiences instead of voice or face-to-face interactions. Video may also be a valuable investment for some brands in the future.
The Trends Influencing Travel and Hospitality
Travel and hospitality companies will rely on CX technology as they search for ways to improve the customer experience consistently. Whether it’s a hotel providing a safe and welcoming stay to travellers or an airline keeping customers up-to-date about delays, the right technology can make a world of difference.
Although there are many examples in the current landscape of how technology influences how we travel, the following represent some of the most significant trends in the CX space.
- Contactless experiences: Travel and hospitality companies have always spent a lot of time face-to-face with consumers. However, as contactless experiences become more mainstream, people will increasingly look for ways to reduce their interactions with staff. This could mean hotels allow people to access self-service tools for checking in or that airlines allow their passengers to message staff members on a flight for assistance rather than trying to grab an employee in person.
- Automation and AI: AI and automation are valuable emerging trends in many industries today, but they could be essential in the travel and hospitality sector. AI will pave the way for the self-service experiences mentioned above. Still, it will also be beneficial when dealing with repetitive tasks and issues that would otherwise consume the time of critical team members. More automation and AI in the travel and hospitality sector will give human employees more scope to work on the tasks demanding their creativity and empathy.
- Endless innovation: Tourism and hospitality groups must innovate quickly to stay ahead of the curve in this increasingly complex landscape. We’ve seen several travel companies experimenting with extended reality to give their customers more unique, meaningful experiences when they cannot travel in a traditional sense. Companies have also introduced AI virtual assistants, bots, and apps, to help customers serve themselves more effectively in a world of contactless interactions. These innovations will only continue as we discover a new era of hospitality.
The Challenges to Overcome in CX for Hospitality and Travel
There are challenges to overcome in any industry searching for exceptional customer experience. For instance, the biggest concern for many companies in this era will be figuring out how to earn customers’ loyalty and emotional commitment while reducing face-to-face interactions.
Providing more engaging customer service experiences may be essential in overcoming this challenge. For instance, rather than just messaging a client about their upcoming vacation, hotel leaders could give these customers a chance to visit the hotel in VR and discuss any concerns they might have over video conferencing.
We’ll rely on technology to make life safer for consumers and employees. Biometric scanners may be the key to self-service check-ins, improving contactless travel and tourism opportunities. Cameras and sensors will need to track temperature and capacity in aeroplanes and restaurants. The more we innovate, the safer we can be.
Embracing CX for Travel and Hospitality
The hospitality and travel spaces are going through an uncertain period of transformation. The only way for this landscape to survive is through an investment in customer experience. With the right CX strategy, we can re-ignite consumers’ love for unique experiences. It all starts with finding the correct technology.