OpenMarket – May 15, 2018
Travel and Hospitality businesses have always known how much customer experience matters. It’s your bread and butter. The cornerstone of your service. The only differentiator that really matters.
But the definition of a “great” customer experience is changing, rapidly.
Apps and digital services like AirBnB, Uber, Skyscanner and TripAdvisor have rewritten the rules. They don’t just connect people to great services, they are great services. They’re easy to use, convenient and practical.
And they’ve driven customer expectations through the roof.
Delivering a great experience on location – in your hotel or on board your plane – is now table stakes. You also need to deliver a seamless experience at every other stage of the customer journey too. From the moment someone visits your website or downloads your app, to the second they stop using your product or service.
The new customer engagement landscape
The digital world may have changed customer expectations but it hasn’t changed the essence of a great customer experience. Customers still want the same things they’ve always wanted – to have their voices heard and their needs met.
Apps and digital services are a great way of enabling these communications. But they’re no silver bullet. Voice, email, social, even face-to-face – all have a role to play in creating a rewarding, end-to-end customer experience.
The challenge is to blend these channels in a way that allows all of your customers to engage with you on their terms. This is hard to get right – not every channel works for every customer. An app may suit a smartphone-addicted twenty-something but voice might be better option for a seventy-year-old who still uses a landline.
Context will have a bearing on your mix of channels too. If someone is considering your hotel, they may want to view potential rooms on your website so they can scrutinize the pictures. But fast-forward to the start of their trip and they may want to call you. Especially if they’ve just stepped off the plane and can’t find your building.
Ultimately, finding the right blend of channels comes down to your audience’s preferences. If you’re launching a high-end airline then you may want to invest in an app that lets people accrue loyalty points. But if you’re launching a budget hotel, then it may make more sense to focus on the fundamentals – voice, email and a good website.
The one channel every travel and hospitality brand needs – SMS
Your biggest customer experience challenge is being there for your customers when they need you. A silver bell on the concierge’s desk no longer cuts it. You need to be available around the clock, every day of the year.
This is perhaps the greatest strength of apps. They allow people to access information immediately. And they let you send customers useful information and customized offers.
The problem is that branded apps are rarely popular. In fact, very few apps are popular. The majority of US consumers download zero new apps per month. So if you’re going to produce one, it needs to be something special.
SMS is a better solution.
Text may seem a little old hat but it can still deliver results that no other channel can. Texts are read, and in most cases, they’re read immediately. Almost everyone has a mobile phone and when they receive a text, they’re compelled to read it.
This makes it the ideal channel for connecting with customers at specific, contextually relevant moments, what we call empathetic interactions. So if you think they’ll need the address of your hotel, you send it to them when they get off the plane. Or if you want feedback on their stay, you send them a request as soon as they get home.
It also lets you do things you could never do before.
For example, Virgin Trains uses it to alert online customers that their train is arriving, before this message hits the departures board. That way, these customers can steal a march on all the other people rushing around the station.
This may seem like a small gesture. But these moments add up. And they can help you do something that’s very difficult these days – surprise customers. These moments are the cherry on top of the cupcake. The flourish that transforms a good experience into a great one.
Time to get creative
Digital hasn’t changed the definition of a great customer experience. But it has created new opportunities for travel and hospitality companies to engage customers.
That’s why it’s time to get creative. By blending the different channels we have at our disposal, we can create an experience that’s better than the sum of its parts. An end-to-end experience that goes beyond satisfaction, to truly surprise and delight customers.
See how Ginger Hotels is using text to create all-new customer touchpoints in our case study, “Delivering more than a pleasant stay”.
 comScore, The 2017 U.S. Mobile App Report, 2017