Meaningful engagement or just communication? What does it takes to genuinely connect with travelers?
NB: This is a viewpoint by Alan Young, president and co-founder of Puzzle Partner.
With the rise of mobile and digital, consumers have higher and higher expectations for interacting with companies digitally.
To fill the need, a plethora of “engagement” technology companies have surfaced within the travel and hotel space. Some are exceptionally innovative, while others are just following along for the ride.
Type “Guest Engagement” into Google and there are a myriad of companies stating that their product will enhance guest engagement and help drive loyalty and revenues. It seems almost too easy.
The real question is whether these brands are indeed engaging travelers and guests - or just enabling communication? There is an enormous difference between the two.
Engagement using technology requires the enablement of a two-way relationship between the provider of the service and the user of that service. It supports the consumer's need to feel special and it is tailored to their desired amount of attention.
Guest engagement is appropriately defined as “emotional involvement or commitment”. By providing interaction capabilities to connect with the traveler or guest on an emotional level, you can increase revenue and loyalty, without the need to entice them with fledgling loyalty memberships or reduced pricing for products or services.
The main problem lies with the fact that technology providers think that simply sending an SMS text message with an offer to a consumer’s mobile device qualifies as engagement.
This is not engagement; this is sending a one-size-fits-all message intended to upsell them. Though it may open up an opportunity for engagement, it is far from what is required to genuinely connect with the traveler or guest.
The same principle can apply to the many online check-in solutions. Does this technology promote engagement or is it more about convenience for the guest and automating front line staff tasks?
So why is engagement so important? Accenture reveals that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
According to a CEI survey, 86% of buyers do not mind paying more for a better customer experience, while only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations.
McKinsey states that 70% of buying experiences are "based on how the customer feels they are being treated."
These numbers are staggering and should be top-of-mind when companies are looking at solutions to help them enhance their current guest-engagement practices.
The engagement technology ecosystem has become more complex with more channels, methods of deployment and emerging consumer demands. There are some notable brands that seem to have found their own distinct secret sauce and appear to be making advancements in delivering solutions that drive timely, meaningful engagement at scale.
Companies like Flip.to, Umapped, Chirpify and ALICE are all headed in the right direction - incorporating mobile, social media, e-commerce, personalization and data capabilities into their platforms.
These solutions recognize that engagement should not be a one time, 1:1 communication and should match the channel, frequency, and unique preferences of each consumer. They also bring friends and family into the engagement model mix, which is a must to increase awareness and build pure organic loyalty.
When looking for technology solutions that drive authentic traveler or guest engagement, companies should prioritize those that deliver creativity, innovation, automation and processes.
Most importantly, engagement technology should become an extension of a brand’s values and commitment to personal service, while increasing the value generated by the customer experience.
After all, happy customers are going to spend more over time, refer friends and become brand advocates. With that the revenue impact from a 10 percentage point improvement in a company’s customer experience score translating into more than $1 billion, guest engagmenent is good for business, that's the bottom line.
NB: This is a viewpoint by Alan Young, president and co-founder of Puzzle Partner, a Canadian-based boutique tactical and strategic marketing agency that helps travel and hospitality technology companies with brand building, public relations, and content marketing. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.
NB2Image by BigStock