4 Ways Your CX Can Boost Travelers’ Trust & Bookings
Last updated April 5, 2023
Travel has resumed post-pandemic, coming back in full force. But the travel industry still faces some tough realities and challenges. Long waits, flight delays, and hard-to-find availabilities are eroding consumer trust and with inflation on the rise, people are wondering is travel worth the effort? The good news? People still want to travel. Despite concerns about disruptions and cost, 72 % of Americans said they feel positive about their travel plans and are fine with spending more, if they come away with a positive experience. With the right approach, you can even boost flight bookings and hotel reservations by delivering exceptional customer service throughout someone's trip. Here are 4 ways that travel brands can use their Customer Experience (CX) teams to win travelers' trust.
1. Become a Proactive Problem-Solver
Travelers are often concerned about flight delays or last-minute trip cancellations, especially after last summer when, according to a Forbes Advisor survey, over 60% of those who traveled experienced some sort of disruption, caused by spiking demand, understaffed airlines or severe storms. Though most are willing to forgive unforeseen delays, when they happen, the response from customer service teams is crucial. Unfortunately, that experience isn't always the best. When it came to travel, customer satisfaction scores fell across the board throughout 2021-2022. Hotel satisfaction fell by 2.7% and even car rental satisfaction fell 1.3%. A J.D. Power 2022 North American Airline Satisfaction Study even found that overall airline passenger satisfaction declined more than 20 points compared to a year ago.
Customer service teams will need to act more like consultants and travel agents, and should be proactive about potential problems, alerting customers about possible delays or disruptions to their plans. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but if issues are addressed early on and possible solutions are presented, your support teams will appear helpful, clear and direct. It may also give travelers the chance to salvage their trip and make alternate plans. By offering a discount or special offer to compensate for the inconvenience, you will also earn their respect and gratitude. Over 70% of consumers are “very likely” to forgive a company for a mistake if they think the customer experience is exceptional.
2. Reassure Travelers About Health & Safety
Cleanliness and safety are now the #1 purchasing drivers for travelers, especially for families with young children, seniors 55+, and anyone with serious health conditions. In fact, a recent survey found that families, and even younger consumers, were willing to pay up to 60% more for a safety-conscious travel experience and almost 85% said their travel decisions depended on the communications they receive from hotels and airlines about safety.
There will always be consumers who are wary of resuming their pre-pandemic level of travel due to health concerns. Airlines and hotels can go a long way toward restoring traveler trust by readily supplying customers with information about their health & safety protocols, and sanitization practices. But it won’t be enough to supply general information. Travelers will want details about cleaning practices, especially at their accommodations, and may want proof, such as formal cleaning certifications with third-party regulators/entities. Answers should be provided throughout the customer interaction cycle, and so should consistent messaging about a hotel brand's commitment to health & safety, so guests are comfortable about their stay.
3. Increased Flexibility & Communication from Companies
When asked what would increase their travel comfort and what changes customers would like to see in the post-COVID travel industry, most people indicate that they would prefer more flexibility when it comes to flights, hotel reservations, and travel insurance. The ability to change your bookings last minute, or to refund trips if faced with an emergency, can be a great incentive for travelers to book early or for larger trips.
This is where communication comes in. You don’t want your customers waiting on hold for hours when they’re in the middle of a crisis, especially if they’re away from home. If they need to rearrange travel plans, they should be given the flexibility to do so. They also need the reassurance of knowing they can easily access customer service teams if something goes wrong. Travel and hospitality brands should offer 24/7 toll-free support lines, with agents who are trained and empowered to make changes to bookings and flights, as necessary.
4. Take Advantage of GOAT
In Expedia’s Travel Trends 2022 Report, researchers identified a new mindset in post-COVID leisure travel, called GOAT (Greatest of All Trips). After cancelled trips and postponed celebrations, this "no-regrets" style of travel involves splurging on big, dream vacations to places such as Bali, Paris, or Rome. Over 40% of U.S. travelers report that they are planning to spend more on luxurious experiences, room or flight upgrades and one-of-a-kind adventures.
Travel brands can capitalize on the GOAT trend by positioning their travel offerings as exciting, unique, and luxurious. Every traveler likes to be treated as a VIP. Sales and customer service agents should offer highly personalized and targeted offerings, such as free upgrades or tailored packages that cater to consumer segments that are willing to travel and spend more. This includes high income travelers earning over $100,000, who are twice as likely to travel, and Millennials, who travel more days per year than any U.S. segment.
How itel can Help
Travelers' trust can be regained, but it will require a new model of customer experience, one where agents assume a travel consultant role, diverging from the more traditional, transactional “sales” process of travel bookings and payment.
But, with the industry in flux, and demand still unpredictable, you may not want to invest in large, in-house customer service operations and may want to consider outsourcing as a flexible, cost-efficient alternative.
Experienced, multilingual customer service and sales teams can provide 24/7 support through voice and digital channels, such as text, email, live chat, and social media. Also, our Innovation Lab can provide you with digital experience development, automation, data analysis, and operations strategies that will allow you to scale with ease.
Contact us to learn more.