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According to a recent report by KPMG Nunwood, levels of customer service in the UK are on the up.

Interestingly, many travel and hotel companies are said to have improved in this area in recent years, with brands such as Emirates, Virgin and Expedia all ranking in the top 50.

This reflects how the travel sector is leading the way in terms of customer experience innovation. KPMG even commented that “within this sector there is something of an arms race, as companies work hard to woo the more affluent passenger or customer, in particular.”

So what exactly are travel brands doing?

Here’s a look at a few examples.

Service via social media

Marriott hotels is one brand with a great social media presence.

In fact, it has increased its focus in this area with its recently launched M-Live Studio in London – a centre for creating real-time content and generating social engagement with consumers.

Instead of simply reacting to users on Twitter or responding to customer demand, M-Live enables the brand to seek out and tap into conversations online and increase levels of personalisation.

It does this by talking about cultural and topical subjects, as well as promoting motivational and inspirational content to engage users. Meanwhile, Marriott often puts its customers in the spotlight, by sharing and replying to those who post positive travel stories online. 

This might sound like run-of-the-mill social service, but Marriott’s laser focus in this area is what makes it stand out from competitors. 

A 2015 study found that customers who feel engaged by companies on social media are likely to spend up to 40% more with them than other customers. For travel brands, this extends to loyalty, with travellers even more likely to return if an experience is positive.

Retail experiences

While there has been a decline in the high-street travel agent, with online booking services becoming the most popular way to book holidays, we’ve also seen an increase in the demand for immersive customer experiences.

Virgin Holidays is one brand that has reacted to this by rolling out V Room, its travel outlet concept, in multiple shopping centres across the UK.

Designed to look and feel like an airport lounge, V Room aims to provide the one-to-one experience of a travel agent but elevates it to create a truly unique customer experience.

With an intangible product, travel brands are recognising the importance of making experiences come alive for consumers. V Room does just that, aiming to give visitors a slice of a Virgin Holiday before they’ve even booked.

With a bar for cocktail tasting and VR technology to give people a view of a destination – it focuses more on the immersive aspect than the actual transaction or booking process.

Practical functionality 

As well as inspiration and wanderlust, many travel brands are realising the importance of reducing stress and hassle of holidays, using digital technology to help facilitate the customer journey. 

Singapore Airlines uses its mobile app to do just that, relaunching it with a real focus on simplifying the customer experience. Now, users can access an integrated flight schedule, see real-time updates on flight statuses and keep track of loyalty rewards.

While it's not unusual for airlines to have their own apps, Singapore Airlines has shown its intent to innovate – also launching a separate app specifically for the Apple Watch.  

This also demonstrates the brand’s understanding of its customer base, with the airline clearly targeting the aforementioned affluent traveller.

In conclusion...

For many travel brands, a superior customer experience is often the key to long-term success.

By meeting or even pre-empting the needs and desires of travellers, be it through social media engagement, immersive technology, or even artificial intelligence - many will increase positive brand sentiment and the chances of long-term customer loyalty.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 10 January, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

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Pauline Ashenden, Marketing Manager at Eptica

These are all good points Nikki, but it is worth stressing that many travel brands are still not doing the basics right. Our own research with 10 airlines and holiday companies found that they successfully answered just 30% of emails – and took an average of 44 hours to respond. Hardly ideal if you are booking a last minute break! There is more detail on the research in this blog post http://www.eptica.com/blog/unhappy-holidays-state-uk-travel-customer-experience

about 1 month ago

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