Why Travel Brands Need to Double Down on Customer Experience

March 9, 2023
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Since the start of this year, travel brands have been scrambling around to entice customers back to their planes, trains and hotels – and the apps on which we book them all. 

But in their desperation to attract new customers, many forget the importance of customer experience. Let me tell you, folks: it’s time to focus on the long game.

Because while you might hear that there are signs of miraculous recovery in travel, it can be very easy to become complacent. 

On paper, things are looking positive. But though customers are taking to the skies again, the industry is still only at 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. 

As we revealed in The Future of Customer Experience in Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality, the travel landscape may be somewhat rosier than it has been over the last few years. But if travel brands want to retain and grow their customer base in the years ahead, they need to double down on customer experience to meet customers’ needs.

Look, we realise that some of this news may not be what travel brands want to hear. But as a CX, insight, or product professional working in the travel sector, this could and should be viewed as a developmental opportunity.

Why? Because if you can understand your customers better, and deliver more customer-centric experiences, you can become the growth and retention engine of the business you work in. Not to mention, if you can tie CX to results like this, it becomes much easier to increase influence and budget for your CX programs. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a win-win.

The Case For Investing in Customer Experience to Drive Retention and Growth 

In challenging times, retaining existing customers and increasing the individual share of customers should take priority over acquiring new customers.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Arron, why bother investing more in customer experience when we can just throw some flashy adverts out there and watch the bookings roll in?” Ah, but you see, my dear reader, that is precisely the kind of short-sighted thinking that will leave your brand stranded at the departure gate.

Let’s face it: we’ve all been burned by a travel brand at some point. Maybe you arrived at your hotel to find that the room you booked looks nothing like the photos. Maybe your flight was delayed for hours with no explanation or compensation. Maybe you were charged an exorbitant fee for changing your booking even though you had a good reason. 

These experiences leave a sour taste in our mouths and make us less likely to book with that brand again in the future.

On the other hand, when a travel brand goes above and beyond to make our experience enjoyable, we’re so much more likely to remember it and book with them again. 

Maybe the hotel upgrades us to a suite just because they have availability. Maybe the airline offers us a voucher or extra miles to compensate for a delayed flight. Maybe the car rental company gives us a free upgrade from a battered, hubcap-shy Dacia Sandero to a rosso red Alfa Romeo when we land late at 2 am in Florence. 

These little gestures make us feel appreciated and valued as customers, and keep us coming back for more.

It’s not all about throwing freebies at customers

Of course, it’s not just about throwing freebies the way of customers. It’s about treating them with respect and understanding. 

That comes down to listening to their feedback, analysing it, and taking it on board. 

It means being transparent about pricing and policies. It means offering flexible options for changing bookings when life throws a curveball. It means making an effort to accommodate customers’ individual needs and preferences – whether that means providing vegan meal options or offering a quieter room for those of us who need to sleep during the day.

Now, I know some of you may be thinking, “But Arron, all of that sounds expensive! And besides, aren’t there always going to be customers who are impossible to please?” To which I say: yes, of course, but hear me out…

By understanding customers, treating them with respect by acting on their feedback, and going the extra mile to make their experience enjoyable, you create a culture of CX that the majority of your customers will appreciate. And in the long run, that will pay off much more than trying to nickel and dime customers at every opportunity.

Nick Cerise, CMO at TTEC Holdings, Inc, recently revealed: “companies with the best customer experience ratings outperformed their industry peers’ stock performance … and doubled their lead over companies that provide poor customer experience.”

Locking in valuable customer relationships allows travel brands to stay extremely close to customers and know exactly where to make investments that will generate ROI and improve the overall experience.

Invest in your customers, and they will invest in you. 

Create a culture of customer experience that makes customers feel valued and appreciated, and they will be much more likely to come back again and again. 

And when they do come back, make sure to continue treating them well – because in today’s world of social media and online reviews, a bad experience can be shared with the world in just a few clicks.

As the world opens up to travel, don't forget about customers who have stuck with you through thick and thin. There is nothing more valuable than the trust a customer places in your brand, which brings us to…

Why it’s time to focus on customer loyalty

Loyalty will keep your business afloat in the long run. Think of it like a romantic relationship – sure, it’s exciting to go on lots of first dates and meet new people. But if you don’t put effort into maintaining the relationship, it won’t last very long. The same goes for your relationship with your customers.

And let’s not forget the financial benefits of customer experience and retention.

Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%, according to Bain & Company.

That’s a pretty significant return on investment if you ask me.

But CX isn’t just about the bottom line. It’s also about creating a positive experience for your customers and making a difference in their lives. Think about it – when someone goes on a vacation or travels for work, they often do it to create memories or achieve their goals. 

By providing exceptional customer service and creating a positive experience, you’re not just helping them have a good trip – you’re helping them create memories that will last a lifetime.

So, travel brands, it’s time to shift your focus from short-term flings to long-term relationships. 

Remember that customer retention isn’t just good for your bottom line – it’s good for creating positive experiences and making a difference in people’s lives. 

So, go forth and invest in your customers – they’re the ones who will keep your business soaring for years to come.

Win hearts (and bookings) with Unified Customer Intelligence 

Unified Customer Intelligence, or UCI for short, is about understanding your customers on a deeper level. It’s like being able to read their minds. By analysing your customer feedback, you can gain insights into your customers’ preferences, behaviours, and needs.

So, why is UCI so important for travel brands? Well, for starters, it can help you create the perfect, personalised experience for your customers. 

Imagine if you could recommend the perfect hotel, tour, or activity based on your customer’s past behaviour and preferences. Or if you could know exactly where to improve your app. Or exactly which area of your customer support needs sorting out to improve loyalty. That’s the power of UCI. 

UCI can also help you anticipate your customer’s needs before they even know it themselves. 

By analysing customer data across feedback, support, social media, and pretty much everywhere else your customers speak about you, you can identify trends and patterns to help you improve your offerings and create new products and services that your customers will love.

So, travel brands, it’s time to embrace Unified Customer Intelligence! Because by understanding your customers on a deeper level, you can create experiences that are truly memorable and build long-lasting relationships. Let’s raise a duty-free glass to that!

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