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.
The role of AI for better tourism CX
Achieving seamless CX and personalized experiences that create customer loyalty requires agents to have the right tools, context and insights. That’s why artificial intelligence is a key part of any tourism-related company’s technology stack.
AI can help improve personalization efforts by examining a vast amount of data points and creating individualized recommendations for each traveler, Batra said. “A lot of things can happen in this industry: natural disasters, flight cancellations, hotel rooms that don’t meet expectations. And [customers] I need help immediately,” Batra said. “This is where always-on personalized support can be very helpful.”
AI can also help make a 24/7 customer support bot as efficient as possible – a vital advantage in an industry where customers need help at any time of the day or night.
Zendesk takes AI-powered bots one step further by providing them with industry-specific information about tourism, hospitality and travel. This helps the bot respond to the customer as accurately as possible based on the factors that make the industry unique.
Finally, artificial intelligence can be used to determine customer intent and prevent potentially negative interactions from escalating, Batra said. An interaction with a passenger can escalate quickly if there is an immediate problem and they need to resolve it as soon as possible. In emergencies like this, the company must be able to recognize the seriousness of the problem and respond immediately.
For example, this might mean marking the interaction as something that requires a human touch and ensuring that the customer speaks to a human agent immediately. AI can also take care of directing the customer to an agent who is familiar with the specific type of request, meaning the agent is best positioned to succeed with the frustrated customer.
Adopt a tourism-informed AI decision today
Zendesk is focused on delivering AI specifically for CX, Batra said. By focusing their expertise, they are able to get the best possible answers from their model. “These challenges are specific to the CX world. Your AI will work better if you have a more refined model of what you’re trying to get answers to,” Batra said.
Combined with the fact that Zendesk’s bots are fed CX data from specific industries, this means that hospitality companies using this tool will receive answers tailored to both their field and their industry. This gives agents the greatest opportunity to engage customers and manage interactions effectively. Learn more about Zendesk’s solution in the link below.
Check out Zendesk’s AI solution here!