How Travel & Hospitality can calm the turbulence within Customer Experience
It’s a turbulent time for travel and hospitality companies.
This past holiday season was the third busiest year for holiday travel since AAA began tracking, and according to Forbes, “most destinations are busier than they were in 2020 and 2021.” The trouble is that almost all airlines, hotels, and others in the industry had massive layoffs during the onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020, and found themselves unable to hire fast enough when business surged again.
The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows openings in leisure and hospitality were trending positive with fewer job openings in November versus October 2022, though 1.5M positions still remained unfilled. Now, high inflation is forcing people to rethink their priorities for their discretionary income, so it’s unclear if the travel boom of the last year will continue during 2023.
These are just a couple of the external forces causing the massive swings of up and down across the industry. But all of that is at a macro level. What makes the customer experience crucial in this industry is that to their customers, a travel experience is very personal with high expectations.
People saved all year for their vacation and they want it all to go smoothly and as anticipated. Or that person traveling for business has a specific purpose that justifies making the trip. And when things don’t go as planned, making it right and getting to “thank you for the help” as quickly as possible is key.
Here are a few ways AI can help – even with all those macro forces swirling around.
1. Know how your customer is feeling
As you engage, it’s important to objectively understand how the customer is feeling, aka if their sentiment is negative, positive or neutral. Understanding sentiment can unlock new and highly valuable data by identifying how people are feeling as they interact with your company. It helps you understand what was said, what was meant and what was felt – then automatically take the next best action to get to the best resolution, such as escalating to a supervisor, flagging for follow-up or automating an agent’s scoring.
Collectively, sentiment data can also be used as attributes and metrics for data discovery and business intelligence reporting. And sentiment analysis can show information by channel, brand, entity, agent and customer to provide insights along the customer journey.
2. Automate as much as possible
Let’s start by stating the obvious – that there are many, many tasks that require the human touch – housekeeping, valet, bartender, security, baggage handling, and much much more. That said, the travel & hospitality industry has collectively experienced a lot of success with automation. Mobile apps allow customers to get a mobile key, reserve a spot in line, buy a ticket, or change a flight. It’s now the norm to see kiosks that help check in and upsell unsold seats.
Keep challenging yourself and your teams on what other tasks can be automated that are a win-win – ones that create consistent experiences, help companies stay closer to their brand experience and can help cut down on human error. With the power of AI, there’s so much more that can be automated and accelerated that couldn’t have just a few years ago. And the biggest benefit of automation is that it can scale both up and down as needed.
The travel & hospitality industry is one where the lofty goal of “delighting your customers” is table stakes. Other industries talk about it, and for some of the reasons mentioned earlier, your customers expect you to deliver on that promise. Personalization is key. Make sure you’re maximizing what you know about each customer – and that those insights aren’t lost due to internal technology silos or inflexible systems and applications. Your customer data is only as valuable as your ability to use it to execute ideal and personalized customer journeys.
4. Build the connections between self-service applications and your agents
As you challenge your organization to expand ways customers can self-serve, it’s imperative to build multiple paths out of the self-service app and to a customer service agent. And when it gets to that agent, they have all the context and history so they can readily pick up where the customer left off.
Inflation, an unstable labor market, pent-up demand for travel and the residual effects of the COVID pandemic are all factors that will impact the travel & hospitality industry throughout 2023. But by focusing on the customer experience and ways to continually and incrementally make it easier for your customers, there look to be clear skies ahead.
Learn more about how SuccessKPI can help you better understand the customer experience in each and every interaction as it’s happening in real-time – with opportunities to interject and better understand.
Ruby Perez is the Content Marketing Manager at SuccessKPI. Prior to SuccessKPI, Ruby supported digital and content marketing at the Exploratorium, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, and McSweeney’s Publishing. With a passion for storytelling, Ruby holds a B.A. in Journalism from San Francisco State University and has had the pleasure of collaborating with SF Weekly, Pop-Up Magazine, The Bay Bridged, and more.