Why Travel Customer Experience Is All About Timing

In the travel industry, keeping customers happy is everything. But sometimes all it takes is the right message, at the right time.

Richard Madden, Senior Account Manager – October 10, 2017

The right information isn’t enough

You’re in the taxi from the office to the airport. In your bag, the presentation for the big meeting this afternoon. You’re ready. But when you look up at the departure board: “flight canceled”.

If only you’d known sooner, you could have rearranged the meeting from the comfort of your office or booked an earlier flight – but now? Game over.

In an ideal world, your customers would always have the information they need, when they need it – but that’s easier said than done. And in the travel industry, delivering the right information at the wrong time is just as bad as not sending it at all.

Every customer communication – good or bad – is an opportunity to show you have their best interests at heart. And timing is everything. Put simply, if you really care about your customers, you need to show it, and be there when it matters.

How to get the timing right

Digital innovation has seen the travel industry make grand changes to customer communications. Today, the pressure is on to use flashy, omni-channel services such as instant messenger, email and dedicated mobile apps.

Sure, those channels all have their merits, but are they the best choice when it comes to delivering the right message, at the right time? Email typically goes unread for hours, and for many, travel apps are throwaway – used once or twice in the run-up to their trip, then deleted. Social is great for engagement but if it’s the sole source of notices for journey delays expect angry hashtags from your passengers. (And more backlash from those who didn’t have an Internet connection on the move.)

A more practical approach is SMS. It might seem a little retro, but SMS still offers a phenomenal open rate of 98% – and it’s quick, simple, and ubiquitous. Nearly 5 billion people can send and receive SMS and whilst it may not seem as ‘sexy’ as a bespoke travel app, it’s far more efficient at getting the right information, to the right customer, fast.

It’s not a panacea, but it’s certainly an essential tool to have in your box.

Getting inspired

Some of the leading travel brands in the world are already on board, using SMS to surprise, delight and inform customers when it matters most. For example:

  • A leading train company saves passengers grief during rush hour by texting their train’s platform before it appears on the departure board – putting them at the front of the queue. Not only does it show initiative, but it reinforces a positive relationship between the brand and their customer.
  • A luxury holiday company solved a drought in customer feedback with SMS. Previously, holidaymakers had received surveys via email, and holiday makers weren’t checking their inbox until they got home — well after the moment had passed. But by going back to basics and sending an SMS survey 30 minutes after check-out, response rates soared.

And these aren’t the only examples; other travel companies are successfully using SMS to:

  • Send Wi-Fi codes to customers on arrival
  • Deliver proactive updates during booking and travel
  • Sell helpful extras like food reservations and priority boarding, in real time
  • Alert staff of travel delays and weather issues

Think about your own customers’ journey – are there any pain points which could be eased with a timely text?

Timing is your secret weapon

They say timing is the secret of great comedy, and we believe the same applies to a great travel experience.

Your marketing has already promised customers you’ll look after them. Now, by delivering valuable interactions when they’re needed most, you can deliver. You’ve not only proven you care, but offered a bold differentiator between you and your competitors.

And if that wasn’t enough, the simplicity of SMS saves both money and resources by taking the pressure off your call centres and service teams, while offering a lucrative channel to collect vital customer data, and upsell add-on services to enhance their trip.

Everybody wins – but it’s always a matter of time.

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