Intelligent traveler engagement driving customer delight
The expectation gap
While every industry talks about customer experience, the travel industry is unique because the product that a travel company sells is an experience. For an airline, the seat is a product; for a hotel, the room is a product; yet the true product that a traveler buys is the experience – experience of a flight, experience of a stay and so on.
Travelers in the current times have a different expectation of experience that is largely driven by the intelligent use of technology on various platforms they engage with. They expect real-world experiences to mimic these virtual experiences. From a travel company’s perspective, this makes their job even harder and intelligent traveler engagement is the only way to meet traveler expectations. Post COVID-19, companies are expected to provide seamless, safe, and secure digital experience to its guests across all touchpoints. Does that sound like a dream? Well, not anymore when you have your goals clear.
Making traveler engagement real
So, what does it take to make intelligent traveler engagement real? It starts with knowing your customer inside out and applying the most innovative technology to deliver an experience that your customers will love. You need to take a few key steps to start making traveler engagement meaningful.
- Understand your traveler and guest: Use data to build a holistic profile of the traveler and the guest. Today, millennials constitute almost about 50% of travelers, and they are not shy with regards to sharing data. Companies need to use all the data from both internal sources and social media to build a holistic profile of every customer. Effective use of social media listening tools to decipher customer sentiments in all phases of the travel journey will empower companies to deliver real-time solutions to customers.
- Deliver personalized offers and communication: Companies must dive into the pool of customer data to create hyper personalized interaction. These are led by AI that can create targeted marketing campaigns at all touch points, chat bots, personalized booking platforms where entire customer data is in store enabling agents to deliver options based on individual customer’s preferences.
- Customer-centric operations: The pandemic has forced companies to rethink operations keeping the end customer in mind. Companies need to make operations cost efficient with leaner workforce without compromising on customer service.
- Implement learning: Traveler preferences evolve as do traveler priorities. Once you understand the traveler, it is essential that this understanding evolves and is up to date with changing customer attributes. Often, companies can learn from customer interactions during the journey but is essential that a suitable ecosystem is established to enable this learning.
Taking it to the next level by making traveler engagement intelligent
Taking traveler engagement to the next level and making it intelligent requires a complete evaluation of technology investments and business goals. Let’s visualize the technology ecosystem that entails intelligent engagement.
- A robust customer data platform: Build a data-driven enterprise where decisions are made only with solid data and analytics. Besides using this data to enable digital channels, make customer data accessible to everyone in the company by building a cohesive and integrated data platform. Imagine contact center personnel having all the data they need about each customer on their fingertips – they can then provide value to every customer interaction. Build models on data that consider various use cases related to customer interactions across all touchpoints.
- API-led approach for an integrated system: Besides the company’s own channels, they are now expected to collaborate with partners in the ecosystem by sharing information with multiple partners. To deliver consistent experiences across various channels, companies should leverage an API-led approach. API-based approach allows for the creation of this ecosystem that involves sharing of secure information and customers feel safe to give their consent in doing that.
- Conversational analytics and automation of contact center operations: Use of conversational AI tools like natural language processing to understand customer queries and automating the routine and most common responses will free up resource time. Implementing intelligent virtual assistants and chatbots on company’s websites and applications are a great way to enhance engagement with customers faster. You are reducing the load on contact center agents by automating the high-frequency inquiries.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning: With a robust data platform in place, it is essential to leverage this data in conjunction with insights from customer interactions to continually learn. The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to aid this is critical to the success of technology investments done today. For example, can you use AI and ML to ensure that a negative experience is remedied and remembered – let’s say a lost bag in a prior trip is acknowledged by frontline staff for a high value traveler and extra care is taken to ensure this does not repeat.
- Giving control to travelers with self-service digital touchpoints: With more and more travelers preferring no-touch environment, a new opportunity emerges for companies to deliver no-touch and self-service options for travelers and guests such as auto-check-ins, information kiosks, and boarding gate readers.
To continually improve the customer engagement platform, companies need to adopt a product-centric approach to building the customer engagement systems that empowers them to respond to market changes – be it customer preferences or competitive response.
Undeniably technology will play a vital role in enabling intelligent traveler engagement. However, the travel and hospitality industry inherently strive on delivering great experiences and great experiences happen only with human touch. So, it is up to the companies to make sure that they blend technology and human touch to deliver those superlative intelligent experiences. It’s a movement towards developing a cohesive digital strategy centered around the customer. A digital strategy that combines data from customers, operations, marketing, and sales to enhance digital experiences for customers and provide frontline staff with the knowledge and insights to improve the human touch in the travel experience.