Can technology deliver a seamless travel experience?
In the digital age, the number of consumers heading to their local travel agent to book a holiday continues to deplete, with more than 80 per cent of holidays booked online. Every flight, hotel reservation and online currency exchange creates data which the travel industry can utilise to improve the customer experience.
With all of this data available, and with the rise of impressive technology to make travel fun, interactive and simple, it’s surprising that so few of our journeys are really seamless. Too often the entire system is broken down into siloes; airlines don’t collaborate with hoteliers, who in turn don’t talk to the travel agents themselves. Far too often, airport authorities fail to connect with key elements which could help to strengthen the customer experience, such as airport retailers and inflight concessionaires. At a time when globalisation means the potential for travel is at an all time high, consumers are rightly beginning to expect more.
Technology’s role in consumer travel
The rise of big data means travel businesses have the ability to build in-depth profiles of their customers. However, despite it being easier for airlines to collect passenger data than ever before, only 20 per cent currently use such data to offer their passengers a personalised experience.
At the same time, Ofcom statistics show smartphones are now the UK’s preferred device for connecting online, moving ahead of laptops for the first time. It’s now natural for customers to be using their mobile devices whilst they travel to check on traffic, bookings and updates as they move. When used wisely, this combined consumer data and connectivity can form the basis of a personalised, seamless travel experience, facilitated by emerging technologies such as iBeacons and wearables. Early adopters have proven the technology is available, it’s now a case of taking full advantage of it.
What is seamless travel?
A seamless travel experience should use technology to put the customer first. It should close the gaps between a previously siloed process, via an accessible online user interface. After all, if a seamless process is available, why would a consumer choose to book travel through a business which doesn’t communicate with any other element of his or her journey? The excitement of booking a holiday may be lost after the fourth separate form they have to fill out to book the flights, hotel, holiday transport and tickets to local amenities.
Seamless travel should offer a door to door service, with one application guiding consumers from their homes to the airport and finally their hotel. No customer is likely to download 27 separate airline apps, the app for every airport they visit, as well as an app for each hotel they stay in. Instead, the industry needs to collaborate in order to make the process simple and streamlined for customers.
The recent partnership between KLM and Uber proves this collaboration works. Last year customers that booked European city trips through KLM automatically received €30 of Uber credits to take them to their hotel. United Airlines is also collaborating effectively – its app includes inventive features such as passport scanning and a travel wallet for customer convenience as they travel. Once at a hotel, technology is also being developed to help consumers become engrossed in the local culture. Apps such as Google Now offer live updates relevant to their location; from transport and currency exchange rates to push notifications relating to nearby places of interest and events.
The travel industry has clearly started to realise the potential of seamless travel but there is still a long way to go before the industry as a whole meets consumer expectations. Travel businesses need to start innovating now, in order to keep up with the competition.
Embracing seamless travel
In an age where nearly every element of consumer travel can be connected, failing to embrace the technology available will be to the detriment of any business naive enough to do so. From innovative software development projects which disrupt the market and set businesses apart from their competitors, to functionality within a hotel room’s floor which sees weight sensors activate the lights when you get up in the middle of the night, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
With consumers becoming increasingly tech-savvy, the time has come for the travel industry to embrace the technology at hand, to take advantage of the continued growth of big data, to put customers first. Only then can travellers across the globe enjoy a fully seamless and personalised experience, rather than pulling their hair out dealing with umpteen providers both at home and abroad.
About the author: Rowan Welch is Account Director for Travel and Leisure at Black Pepper Software
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.