18 Jul

The Customer has Arrived

At the beginning of the month I ran the first of my Genesys Happiest Minds Executive Series seminars in partnership with Happiest Minds.  The idea is that we will hold regular seminars, exploring the most topical and pressing digital transformation issues that are concerning us in today’s travel industry.

I decided to call our first seminar ‘The Customer has Arrived’.  I wanted the seminar to reflect on the way the travel industry needs to change in the way it addresses customers.  My speakers were Joerg Esser, Group Complementary Director, Thomas Cook Group and Fergus Boyd, Group Director, VP of Digital & IT, Yotel.  You can view their presentations from my Events Page.  Just scroll down to ‘Past Conferences’.

Traditionally, the travel industry is focused on taking bookings: “Booking taken, job done!”  Even in these days of digital engagement, so often this is the simple business objective.  In fact, when I think about it, some of the most technologically sophisticated OTAs still stick with this.  Once the customers have booked, they will receive their booking confirmation, e-tickets and hotel voucher and that’s that.

However, a realisation is dawning that this is just not good enough.  Taking a holiday booking, hotel or flight reservation is just one small part of fulfilling our customers’ hopes and ambitions for their trips.  They do need to travel.  They do need to stay in a hotel; but there is so much more that they are thinking about that many travel companies, whether online or offline, simply do not address.  The customer is having a whole trip experience and yet the travel company may only have helped the customer with parts of this.

Focusing more on owning the in-trip experience has to be a win-win for travel companies and their customers.  Travel companies can benefit from building closer relationships with their customers, not to mention the opportunity for ancillary sales revenues.  Customers themselves can benefit from improved service and the better attention they would get from their travel companies.

There is an issue, though.  Everybody wants to own the customer and build better relationships.  So, unless you are, for example, a cruise line, a vertically integrated tour operator or a holiday park, you are going to find hoteliers, airlines and others competing for your customer’s attention. 

So, what’s the answer?  You need to take care of your customer’s entire trip, helping them to plan it and supporting them during the trip.  At the moment, there are several, independent trip planning apps and websites around that do this.  For example, Tripomatic, planapple and Triphobo are just three of the better established ones that come to mind.  None of these have been developed by travel companies, though.  Just as when the OTAs launched and left the travel industry lagging, it seems we in the travel industry are content to let others come in with innovative ideas and take our customers away.

It strikes me that when the customer has arrived could be the new battleground, with the spoils of war being higher profits and increased customer loyalty; but will the winnings go to the travel industry or innovative entrepreneurs who seem to be once again setting the pace?