Over the past few months, the travel industry has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The lawsuit between Ryanair, a low-cost Irish airline, and Expedia, an American travel tech company, is indicative of what is coming down the tracks. Traditional travel companies are scrambling to add value to the customer-centric world. Airlines, which were earlier investing hundreds of millions of dollars in buying new aircraft and software systems, are now moving into the holiday package space and shaking up the travel norms like never before.
Now, while booking a flight, customers can hire a car, select hotel rooms, and book local travel itinerary— all in one go. This has left the traditional travel agents, online travel agents, and travel aggregators in a real struggle. They are forced to re-evaluate their service models and add value to the travel experiences in line with their competition. In a survey on customer experience, Gartner found that approximately 81% of marketers believe that in another two years, customer experience will be the base factor for gaining competitive advantage.
How can digital transformation solutions help travel companies in delivering value to customers?
Digital transformation is the key to growth and success for businesses—including travel. It is primarily purported to deliver enriched customer experience. The World’s Most Influential CMOs Report (2018) published by Forbes says business leaders must embrace “digital transformation with a customer-first mindset.”
While the Ryanair–Expedia battle is for the court to decide, there are a number of “future proofing” exercises travel companies need to take for redefining travel nuances. Digital transformation with a customer-first mindset is considered to be one of the most important among them.
Here are some of the ways that emphasise how digital transformation solutions are changing travel experiences:
Augmented Reality is making a huge splash in the world of aviation, and a perfect example is how British resort, Hub by Premier Inn, used AR to stream a detailed local area guide straight on the customer’s wall.
Global travel companies are betting large on AR capabilities to modernise their service offerings and revolutionise customer engagement from scratch. They are combining graphics, images, sounds, and other elements to simulate real-world environments and create immersive travel experiences, which will soon become the *new normal*.
When companies embrace digital transformation, they realise the benefits of continuously evolving technologies. Technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), for instance, read the traveller’s choice of destination, packages, etc. and analyse and trigger an automated response to offer personalised recommendations. Carnival Cruises uses a wristband to provide personalised directions to travellers, customised drinks tasting, poker tables, and events and attractions that the passenger might be interested in, based on their preferences.
Another important way to add to the customer’s satisfaction through digital transformation is the availability of the content generated by users. Digital channels enable travel companies in providing an open platform, where users can share their views and generate informative content for other travellers. They can write reviews, share photographs, explain the routes, the best and economical places to stay and dine, and help users to build more familiarity with the destination. River cruise line, Uniworld has added a new community page to their website, so that users can view the cruise line through the eyes of the travellers and crew members.
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Travel companies are increasingly embracing Virtual Reality to create meaningful interactions with travellers. They can create three-dimensional images of destinations and their surroundings and share them with fellow travellers to give real-time views of attractions and hotels enabling vicarious experiences in virtually visiting a place. Marriott hotels are using VR postcards to preview locations anywhere in the world. Users can hear other travellers’ stories and plan a trip to any location of their choice.
Over 53% of the world’s population is actively using the Internet and more than 40% of them are active social media users. While these trends speak for themselves, it’s the smartphone penetration that plays out the loudest. Smartphone apps have turned to be a key facilitator to travellers worldwide. Companies have their own apps, where users can access information on ticket prices, hotels, destinations, etc. 24 x 7 and can choose the best options available. Apps give travel companies 24 x 7 access to customers and the opportunity of catering to their needs—anytime, anywhere. This goes a long way in leveraging customer engagement and retention. Delta airlines Fly Delta app helps travellers to track their luggage with their location in order to reunite them quickly. By linking mobile apps with RFID technology, airlines can notify customers if their bags are delayed. This is one more way for them to deliver unique customer experience.
These elements essentially help in adding to the customer’s satisfaction levels and boost conversion rate optimisation—leading businesses to sustained and inclusive growth.
Technology Solutions Key to Customer Satisfaction
Users now demand more convenience and uniqueness in service. Clever organisations, looking to add value, maximise ROI, and create unique, personalised customer experiences will win and retain businesses over competitors who lag behind in this key requirement.