Travel and tourism industry has seen major growth in the past couple of years with contributing about 10.4% to global GDP. That’s 4.6% more than the previous year (World Travel & Tourism Council, 2018). This growth has further been accelerated with the world going digital. Today, the way tourists discover or book their trips and vacations has changed drastically from the traditional travel agency setup. The travel and tourism industry needs to adapt to the changing times or be prepared to be left behind.
Adapting to the digital shift comes with its own set of challenges. Let us look at some of these challenges in detail and try to come up with the solutions for the same.
#1. Planning and Booking a Trip
The booking process has changed over the years. Unlike earlier times when we used to go to a travel agency or had a go-to travel agent, now we tend to just go on the world wide web and make the bookings. The industry is highly competitive. It is no big surprise then that a prospect will have a couple (if not more) options in their consideration basket. That’s where the first challenge comes in to play – how to be the first respondents and get those customers to your business.
Be proactive. For instance, a customer lands on your website and spends some considerable time on it. With live chat software, it is possible to proactively start a conversation with her/him and guide them to what they are looking for. One can also use a bot to handle the routine questions. In case the conversation takes a turn to some complex query for which the bot is not trained, seamlessly transfer the conversation to a live agent.
#2. Limited Traveler Independence
By virtue of the nature of this industry, things need to work quickly here. Problems need to be solved fast. More so today as travelers are tech-savvy now. They know what they want and how to get it. The longer they have to wait for someone to find an answer or the more effort they have to put in to search for the answer, the more irritable they get.
Provide travelers and prospects with self-service support. Provide customers with the tools needed to take care of their problem on their own. This eliminates the need to speak to a representative and cuts down on the time used to wait for a response. Giving customers the ability to find answers online without speaking to anyone means that they will resolve the issue at a much faster rate and won’t need any extra assistance.
#3. Lack of Multi-channel Support on the Move
Sometimes while traveling, we have limited access to a network which restricts the use of certain communication channels. But that should not stop you from supporting your customers. That can only be ensured with helpdesk software, which supports all the major channels such as voice, email, chat, social media, WhatsApp, etc.
Provide omnichannel support to travelers. For instance, if a customer sends you a message on Twitter, your customer support executive will receive it as a new ticket. Any response on that ticket by the executive will be available to the traveler as a reply to the DM that they sent. The same can be done in case of other media platforms – an email reply, a live chat or support over a voice call.
#4. Lack of Personalization
Making the customer feel special goes a long way especially in the travel and hospitality industry. Knowing the customer’s likes and dislikes put the business in a much better position to deliver exceptional customer experience. But, without the right tools and mechanisms, you will be generalizing for all the customers/travelers. Thus, losing out on a perfectly good opportunity to delight the customers.
Analyze customer behavior to identify patterns which allow the support team to effectively manage the customer requests. Having all the customer information in front of the agent when they are talking to the customer will empower them with the right information along with not requiring the customer to repeat themselves. For instance, if a guest prefers to book a hotel room on the 5th floor or above but due to some reason, this time the room is booked on the 3rd floor. The support executive should have access to the travelers previous booking behavior to identify this pattern and possibly work something out to get her/him the desired room.
#5. Crisis Management
Traveling can be a hectic process as it is. Managing the documents, packing the luggage, arranging transport – to name a few. On top of that, if some unforeseen incident happens, it leads to a panic situation. Which if not dealt with in a timely fashion has the potential of snowballing into a much bigger problem.
Provide the travelers (irrespective of them being HNI passengers) with a hotline to directly connect with the support staff. For example, Mr. X who is traveling on a solo international trip loses his luggage and has a connecting flight in the next 2 hours. Making him wait on a long IVR will only make the situation worse. Thus, it is important to provide the customers with a hotline to directly connect with an agent in case of an emergency. If you are able to handle the crisis effectively, it will instill a sense of trust in the customer’s mind and they will become loyal to your brand.