Is that a glimmer of sunshine peeking through the clouds? In a 2021 Travel Trends Report by Expedia Group, 44% of travelers say they will embark on trips and extend their vacations compared to a year ago. For the travel and hospitality industry, demand is surging. People are ready to return to the travel experiences they know and love and they’re doing so at a high volume and fast pace. But this time, they have increased concerns around safety, technology, sustainability, diversity, and more.
While this is excellent news, there are still many factors to consider when it comes to meeting the needs of your customers in a way that sets your business up for success. After a lull in reservations, flights, and bookings, is your organization ready to meet the needs of an influx of vacation-starved travelers? Are you ready for the future of travel?
The last thing you want to do is to skimp on customer experience because you’re hustling and bustling to keep pace. This will only hurt your organization’s reputation in the long run.
After the stressful experience travelers faced due to the pandemic, they are looking to book their plans with businesses they trust to put their needs and safety first. Have you asked yourself and your team what kind of experience you’ve designed for your customers in the post-pandemic world?
Take a step back and reimagine your approach to create the best customer experience possible with these five strategies:
- Make excellent customer service your No. 1 priority
Travel was practically non-existent for a year, but now that it’s back on the table, travelers’ values have shifted. They will decide who to give their business to based on the experience provided to them, making customer service a key success factor. Increased revenue is great, but not at the expense of meeting customer needs. Don’t sacrifice customer service for more bookings. Business will continue to improve and you want your reputation to do the same. Think of it as customer-centric customer service rather than business-centric customer service. Pay attention to your customers, listening to what they are saying in the market about their needs so you can tailor every aspect of your approach. You can do this by sending customer surveys, drawing insights from what they share on social media, and asking employees who interact with customers what they’re hearing in their conversations and ways you can improve customer service.
- Focus on meeting post-COVID expectations of travelers
Travelers set their expectations now, not the other way around. They are in control of their buying journey. Travel may be back in high demand, but it has a different look and feel. Travelers are more wary and customer service and cleanliness top their list of priorities when deciding who they travel with and where they travel. New expectations include increased safety and service, but also sustainability. They want to do business with purpose-driven companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion and adopt proactive business practices. Customers want more than just a high quality service. They want to do business with a brand they can trust and relate to. Is your strategy considering these new expectations?
- Outsource when you can so you can focus on core business functions
Leverage outsourcing to accelerate your business. Gone are the days where you could count on employee retention. Attracting and retaining top talent remains a challenge in the travel and hospitality industry. When you outsource your call center you gain the benefits of faster response times, advanced technology you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and increased availability for your customers. Read 5 Reasons to Outsource your Call Center for real-life examples of how outsourcing can benefit your business.
- Invest in technology
The pandemic pushed the need for the travel and hospitality industry to invest in tech. Technology that automates your business is an investment that supports increased demands. With fluctuating travel restrictions, contact centers are experiencing a higher volume of guest inquiries. This means longer wait times for customers. Many agents feel the pressure of this increased workload. They know their employer is expecting them to work as efficiently as possible to keep up with the demand.
Process automation helps free up employees’ time, allowing them to zero in on what’s important – business results and customer satisfaction. You can leverage technology for everything from online health surveys prior to booking trips, employee health screenings, alerts and more.
Going contact-free is another timely technology investment, with health and safety topping the list of traveler concerns. In a survey by Public Sapient, 78 percent of respondents said the ability to use contactless technology is one of the top three factors when choosing a hotel. Travelers have become accustomed to contactless methods in their daily lives and want it when they travel as well.
By investing in these productivity-enhancing technologies, you’ll dramatically improve day-to-day operations and be able to meet customer expectations consistently.
Your customers have been through a lot and the more they feel you understand them on an individual level, the more likely they are to do business with you. Personalization isn’t simply a suggestion. Customers demand it. More than 90 percent of consumers are more apt to shop with brands that give them offers and recommendations relevant to their interests.
Are you adding a personal touch to your interactions and marketing tactics to show your customers you know what they want? Analyzing customer data is one way to uncover who your customers are and what is relevant to them. This intelligence can then be applied to your sales and marketing efforts through messaging.
Your employees must also understand the role personalization plays. A great example of personalization is Accor Hotel’s guest recognition program. Here’s how it works: the hotel identifies one month in advance loyalty members who will be using their facilities, then researches their social media profiles to select customized gifts based on each guest’s interest. A guest who likes fishing may receive an eco-friendly fishing trip in the San Diego Bay; a guest with a luxury car obsession may receive a certificate to drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Going above and beyond with personalization will build your brand reputation and create memorable experiences that keep customers coming back.
Applying these five strategies will help you remain responsive and resilient to shifting travel trends in 2021 and beyond. If COVID has taught is anything, it’s that life is unpredictable and the more prepared we are the better off your business will be. With customer-obsessed strategies like these in place, you’ll be able to bounce back quickly from any new obstacles that may arise as travel restrictions continue to ease up.