Why travel brands must act now to tackle the moaners

David Balko (1)When it comes to travel, Brits are raring to go this summer, but numerous factors are going to make this holiday season the summer of complaints – which means travel brands need to adapt their customer experience strategies.

Pent up demand, more expensive flights, limited availability and the cost of living crisis mean it’s going to cost people more – and matter more – that they get the holidays they are expecting. The travel landscape is changing for brands and customers. The chief executive of TUI, Sebastian Ebel, was just one public figure warning that the period of cheap air travel is over.

Higher oil prices and rising inflation across the board are obvious factors but as people pay more, they expect more and that has huge implications for brands in this sector. For one or two precious weeks of the year, people want to have great experiences, brilliant service and zero issues.

With this additional pressure on the travel industry, both logistically and experientially, if things do go wrong or expectations aren’t met, customers will complain – and they will complain with gusto.

Conversational AI supercharges people’s ability to knock out a complaint letter. ChatGPT can quickly deliver the right kind of complaint with the right tone and messaging to ensure they get the right outcome. Legal AI solutions are popping up across the sector that help people to complain about service, lost luggage and poor experiences. All will demand and expect a positive outcome.

So, how can businesses manage this? Well, it’s undoubtedly difficult, but most reasonable people understand that things can go wrong – as long as when it happens things are fixed effectively at the point they failed. When that’s achieved, brands can turn a poor situation into a positive one.

Ensuring staff are empowered and able to fix things quickly is vital, so they know the things they can and can’t offer. If things do go wrong, businesses may need to collaborate with their competitors to make sure people get a great experience. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.

So here are my seven pointers on how to improve the experience for everyone:

Streamline the booking process. Simplify and optimise online booking to make it user-friendly and efficient. Minimise unnecessary steps and offer clear instructions for a smooth and hassle-free booking experience.

Enhance communication channels. Improve communication channels between travellers and the company. Provide multiple channels such as live chat, email and social media, and ensure prompt responses to customer inquiries and concerns.

Personalise customer interactions. Use customer data to personalise interactions and offer tailored recommendations and offers. This can help create a more unique and memorable traveller experience.

Prioritise transparency. Be transparent with pricing, fees and policies. Clearly communicate any additional charges upfront to avoid surprises for customers, and make sure terms and conditions are easily accessible and understandable.

Invest in employee training. Provide comprehensive training to employees, particularly those in customer-facing roles, to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to assist travellers effectively. Empower them to handle customer complaints and resolve issues promptly.

Embrace technology. Use innovative technologies such as chatbots, artificial intelligence and automation to enhance customer service capabilities. These technologies can help provide instant assistance, streamline processes and improve overall efficiency.

Actively seek and listen to customer feedback. Encourage customers to provide feedback on their experiences through surveys, reviews or social media platforms. Actively listen to their feedback, identify areas for improvement, and take corrective actions accordingly.

By implementing these strategies, travel companies can improve their customer experience and minimise complaints this year. Brands need to continuously adapt and evolve based on customer feedback and changing industry trends to stay ahead in the competitive travel sector.

And, finally, remember this is a cycle. Ryanair has ordered 300 new planes and they’ll start arriving before the end of the decade. These aircraft will be cleaner and cheaper to run – so people will travel and expect lower prices.  There will be good times as well as bad.

Dave Balko is chief client officer at Tribal Worldwide


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