Insights|Flying the Friendly Skies? How to Bring CX Back to the Travel Industry 

Flying the Friendly Skies? How to Bring CX Back to the Travel Industry 

High prices and low expectations signal an urgent need to overhaul CX in the travel industry.

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by Sitel staff October 31, 2022 - 2 MIN READ

The travel industry has bounced back as consumers are getting out and traveling again. According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourism is back to 60% of pre-pandemic levels, and TSA travel checkpoint numbers show that today’s U.S. travelers have exceeded 2019 pre-pandemic numbers, with the upcoming holiday season likely to set even higher records.  

But flight cancellations, delays, long lines, high fares, excessive fees, lost luggage and staffing shortages are plaguing the industry. Dutch airport Schiphol has been forced to ask airlines to cancel numerous flights and reduce the daily passenger numbers by 20% due to staff shortage, and the U.S. Department of Transportation recorded more than 2,000 complaints against U.S. airlines this year. To put this into perspective, that’s three times more complaints than in 2019. 

Flying High in the Friendly Skies 

The travel industry was once the gold standard for CX. Travelers looked forward to the service and personalized attention from the friendly, doting flight attendants as much as they did arriving at their destinations. Your vacation literally began when you boarded the plane. However, things have changed. Today, many travelers are grateful to arrive at their destination on time and with their luggage. 

More than any other industry, the travel industry needs to build an emotional connection that exceeds customer expectations. Whether traveling for a business meeting, family gathering, or quick getaway, guests want to feel well-rested, recharged and appreciated as they make their way to their destination. Travel is an emotional experience and travel brands must aspire and cater to that feeling.  

To deliver what customers need, it’s important to first understand what they want. COVID-19 has compounded customer needs and expectations, constantly shifting these requirements. But the one thing that never changes is how customers expect to feel. The good news is that all the data needed to gain customer insights are readily and easily available.  

Prioritize CX Once and for All 

The multichannel journey through which customers search, book, plan and pay for travel can yield a wealth of information. Travel brands can leverage internal and external data through social media, mobile booking apps and operational systems. If used correctly, this data will provide brands with the foundation to develop a holistic strategy to repair and reinject CX into the travel industry. Understanding your customer’s preferences will help brands choose the best channels and design the best CX strategy. 

Seamless Contactless Experiences 

Historically, customer interactions in the travel and hospitality industry have been face-to-face. But with technology constantly evolving, many travelers prefer and enjoy the freedom and 24/7 accessibility of booking apps and mobile websites. As these contactless experiences become the norm, it’s no surprise that brands offering self-service tools with the easiest, most user-friendly platforms will, again and again, earn repeat customers.  

Identify a Cross-Functional CX Team 

To deliver impactful, emotional CX, everyone must be on board and committed to providing the best customer experience. Identifying stakeholders at every touchpoint of the customer journey is a critical first step. 

Be Flexible  

A brand’s customer service is not measured by how well things go but rather by how well they respond and react to difficult situations. Shortcomings and failures in the travel industry have domino effects for customers, who are almost always adversely affected. Even as customer behavior changes and new channels emerge as markets evolve, your customer experiences must be a priority and not an afterthought. You owe it to your customers to continuously monitor and improve their experiences.  

Our Best Practice Guide for Delivering Best-in-Class Customer Experience in Travel and Hospitality will provide insight into the steps brands in the travel industry can take to deliver the CX today’s customers expect. 

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