I’m not going to dwell on the pandemic. It’s been a very tough year and many businesses have sadly fallen, but now comes the news we’ve all been waiting for.
The vaccination programme is well underway and people are starting to book trips again. Fantastic news, most of us would agree, so perhaps now we can start to look forward to some sense of normality.
But what will this normality be like?
Of course, we all want people to start populating the beaches and the hotels and searching for new experiences again, but their requirements throughout the enquiry, booking journey and beyond are going to be very different.
There will be new preferred destinations, new types of travel coming into play and new booking processes. For travel distributors, now is the time for a critical reset to address their crucial role in the overall customer experience.
Central to this will be the development of a "customer for life" strategy and a "whole experience" approach
There are four important steps that every travel business will need to follow to deliver growth, loyalty and continued success.
- A meticulous knowledge and understanding of your customer
- Delivery of a genuinely personalized customer experience
- Establishing a supporting technology platform and data infrastructure
- Exceptional service and communication throughout the whole experience
Travelers will be acutely aware of the experience and service they receive from the businesses they depend upon. Our industry will need to build additional trust by creating a customer experience across each touch point that is prompt, consistent, relevant and delivered with empathy.
Only by meeting these requirements will travel businesses earn the customer loyalty they need to succeed and begin to create a "customer for life" environment.
To achieve such loyalty travel will need to deliver transcendent experiences across all channels: apps, websites live support, inbound and outbound mails, calls and SMS. Alternative payment such as bank transfers, local card schemes, cryptocurrency and the most common and fastest-growing model e-wallets provide the convenience and security travelers will expect.
This technology is already being introduced by travel businesses, so expect a big shift in processes and procedures when the industry restarts.
These tech changes will need to work with other critical agency operations like booking engines, itinerary builders and commission tracking. There are advanced CRM platforms, like ours, that have been designed to fulfil these experiences and deliver applications that support the administrative and data requirements to do so
The service must be seamless and positive with the underlying purpose of keeping customers informed and updated throughout, whilst maintaining a deep understanding of individual preferences.
It is clear that there needs to be change. Customer travel habits and patterns will be different… at least for the foreseeable future. Government regulations, health awareness and the attitude effects of a global pandemic will mean changes to the way your travel business may operate.
Tour operators and travel agents will need to design itineraries that are sensitive to this changing landscape of safe distancing and other expanded health considerations.
In a recent report from Skyscanner new consumer trends emerging include one-way travel, WFHotel and alternative accommodation types (often with a business workspace, combing work and travel) and last-minute bookings, as consumers navigate around cancelled flights and hotel reservations.
Unlike the days before COVID-19, the choice of airline may no longer be solely price driven. Decisions are more likely to be influenced by hygiene standards, seat occupation spacing and so on.
The connected traveler
It will be more important than ever for travelers to stay connected as they travel. Going "off grid" won’t be as high on the agenda for a while as travelers will need to stay informed and up to date with the latest guidelines.
Tour operators that provide their travelers with detailed online and offline itineraries will be top of the mind for travelers concerned about staying informed.
They will want to be assured that their travel provider will be available to give advice while they are in another country. The future traveler will want to be informed of all the various parts of their travel, whether that’s information from their airline, hotel or car hire.
While each part of the journey has its own app they will want a supplier that can connect with them to bring together any changes to their itinerary and keep them at the centre of all parts of the trip.
Now is the time to adapt and innovate
Leading travel companies of the future will be those that deliver on the customer experiences emerging as the ones most important.
This requires an understanding of the shifts in dynamics, the problems customers may be facing and the ability to move quickly to address them.