The travel industry has been desperately struggling in recent weeks with the post-pandemic rush of travelers hoping to escape for some long-overdue relaxation.
It has been a trying time at best and a complete nightmare at worst. For example, staff shortages at Heathrow Airport have forced it to cap the number of passengers flying out of the hub to 100,000 a day. This has resulted in British Airways canceling 13 percent of its summer schedule, a total of over 10,000 flights. For travelers with disabilities who manage to travel, there have been increasing reports of service failings that have left them stranded.
The increase in fuel and energy costs also means that travel companies are struggling to operate as they once used to. Some tour operators now consider fuel surcharges a necessary evil. The International Air Transport Association estimates overall expenses for the aviation industry in 2022 will be up 44% in 2021. This, coupled with the rising cost of living, has resulted in many consumers choosing to travel and holiday closer to home, which all has a knock-on impact on travel worldwide.
Placing humans at the heart of travel CX
The traveling industry should respond by ensuring that humans are at the heart of everything businesses within the sector. At its core, travel is an experienced industry, meaning that everything customers experience related to their journey will significantly affect their opinion of a brand.
Luckily, the industry is well-placed to respond. The travel sector leads the way in consumer insights and proposition innovation in many ways. We see further integration of physical and digital experiences by creating seamless, physically and digitally joined-up customer experiences. This will put smiles on passengers’ faces while making frontline staff’s jobs easier and leads to cutting costs.
A proactive omnichannel customer experience, transparent, empathetic, efficient, and fair, short-term brand damage is unlikely to cut too deep. When much-anticipated ‘wow’ experiences are failing to deliver, it certainly pays to have CX designed to build emotional connections with customers and, in turn, foster long-lasting goodwill and loyalty. Customer centricity is key to helping the travel industry support when there is a disruption to ensure customers feel that brands are on their side.
Separate the best from the rest
Trade body ABTA suggests that three-quarters of UK families are planning a holiday abroad this summer alone, so we’ve unfortunately not seen the end of the turbulent times this year. Delays, canceled flights, mile-long queues, and strikes are not problems going away any time soon.
While some players are rising to the challenge, others require a mindset shift. The high-profile issues hitting the news should serve as a wake-up call for companies that regard CX as a cost center: the future is founded on humanity-driven experiences that protect the brand and drive loyalty and recommendation. While it’s true that these events are often difficult to predict, it’s also true that how a business responds to them is key to customers’ perceptions of a brand and their behaviors towards it.
With more than 65% of people expecting more from customer service than three to five years ago, reacting quickly and being flexible to customer needs in a crisis will help travel companies develop and maintain a competitive edge. The rest of the sector would be totally fine by investing in scenario planning, robust customer crisis response, and proactive, customer-centric omnichannel communications to build the resilience and agility required to tackle inevitable future crises.
Based on an article by Nora Boros, CSO at Webhelp.