AI-driven customer experience in tourism

The travel industry has gone through massive changes over the past few years as the pandemic accelerated old trends and created new ones. Customers increasingly have higher expectations regarding the health and safety, quality of digital experiences and personalization that travel companies offer. In this world, companies must support the needs of travelers through updated strategies and technologies.

Polomi Batra, director of product marketing at Zendesk, and Nazli Kamlibel, senior product marketing manager at Zendesk, spoke with CMSWire about the challenge of meeting customer expectations (CX) in the tourism, hospitality and travel industry. They also explored artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that support CX interactions to meet modern needs.

CX Challenges in tourism

The travel industry has several unique distinguishing features that make it more vulnerable to certain CX challenges compared to other industries. Passenger issues are often time-sensitive, Batra said. These include challenges such as flight delays, booking errors and last minute changes to events or bookings.

There can also be many moving parts to a traveler’s plan, and problems with one part can have a domino effect on others. A personal itinerary can include flight plans, accommodation plans, activity plans and more, all of which need to line up together to make for a seamless trip, Batra said. Many people book these different parts of the experience on different booking sites, which only adds to the complexity.

The pandemic has also accelerated some challenges. Concerns about travel health and safety have increased since the pandemic, Batra said. The use of digital channels for all industries has also exploded, and travelers now expect companies to run a tight ship when it comes to their digital capabilities. With that comes the reality that people expect personalized digital experiences that match their unique travel interests. Meeting these rising customer expectations requires companies to embrace the right tools in their technology stack – or else travelers will take their business elsewhere.

Improving the customer experience for travelers

Customers want a seamless experience when planning a trip. If their booking experience isn’t seamless enough on one site, they’ll simply switch to another site or app, Batra said. On the other hand, travel-related companies can meet these expectations by offering simple, seamless experiences such as the ability to quickly check-in via a mobile app or the ability to book a flight or room with a few clicks on the phone.

“Customers who travel also like personalization,” Batra added. “As a company, if you know what type of flights they typically like, what types of places they like to travel to, and what types of activities they like to do, you [can] make recommendations based on this data.”

One more important way to improve CX for travelers is by improving the loyalty program. “This industry in particular has many loyalty programs for its customers. So, in addition to escalations and complex routes, [travel companies] they also need to segment how they serve their customers based on these loyalty programs,” Camlibel said. If a customer feels well taken care of by a company, they will continue to return their business and share their positive experience with others.

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