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by Jack Miller on 1 Jun 2016

A lot of people talk about how Airbnb is eating up the Travel sector, but not many offer a reason as to why. To some, it's obvious.

Customer Experience in Travel
Customer Experience in Travel

It comes down to a better customer experience (CX). On demand travel companies are disrupting the industry by giving customers more control and comfort. They know they are in the CX business, and they understand how it helps them grow. From our research, we have found CX champions and laggards in the industry and uncovered the fundamental reasons why the sector as a whole is struggling to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

This post is about why the travel sector is failing to keep pace with customer experience and how it can improve. We’ll start with how we got here:

Lack of Investment

It’s common knowledge that it’s 7 times more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain existing ones, but no one is actually figuring out the best ways to keep customers happy. Investments in customer experience have been declining in the sector and are failing to keep pace with customer expectations. Customer experience initiatives are just not a priority for the sector.

For some companies, customer experience is driving innovation and putting a human face behind their strategy. Personalisation, big data and rich insights driven by technology are allowing these companies to form deeper interactions with customers at scale, building loyalty and strengthening brands. At the same time it is punishing firms that are getting it wrong.

The key to understanding and improving customer experience? Listening to customer feedback.

Isolating Feedback

Customer feedback is not used to its full potential. There are two problems: firstly it is isolated in messy Excel files and collected in many ways by different departments of an organisation. Secondly, no one is actually accountable for it and there is often no alignment between frontline employees and the senior team on what makes good CX. As a result, organisations end up with marginal improvements on what they assume is ‘great’ customer experience.

Example:

Hotels thought offering a quicker check-in service on arrival was enough to improve the customer experience. In reality, the real opportunity was offering customers more control, comfort, and choice over their travel plans. No prizes for guessing the startup that figured out that solution.

The fact is, customer feedback is a huge and undeserved revenue opportunity. When you combine technology like Artificial Intelligence with trusted customer experience tools like Net Promoter Scores (NPS), you essentially turn customer feedback into a competitive advantage.

By analysing granular insights at scale, firms of all sizes can offer smarter marketing, personalised experiences and identify the true needs and wants of their customers. Why does this matter? Firms can stop competing on price by offering a superior customer experience.

So, what does all this mean? We said we will show you how to improve customer experience in the travel sector, so let’s show you how to use customer feedback to do that- we’ve also packaged this into a case study on how Airbnb do this really well.

Phase 1: Collect customer feedback using NPS

If you don’t know what Net Promoter Score (NPS) is, check out this post where we explain it.

The key here is to make sure you collect accurate data. You need a representative sample of your customer base. The best way to do this is through quick and simple designed templates to get a healthy response rate- a quick question asking customers what the likelihood of them recommending your business to a friend on a 0–10 scale, and a follow-up open-ended question is what we suggest. Like so:

NPS Score Template

NPS Score Free Form Comments

Then you just need to make sure you run these continuously to avoid random sampling. Once you have all this in place, you’re ready to start analysing to your heart’s content and begin building better marketing, developing deeper interactions and listening to your customers.

Phase 2: Analysing feedback

You’ve got all this data on your customers, now what? This is probably the most complex part if you have collected customer feedback correctly. You need to figure out a way to analyse all this data at scale to give you actionable insights quickly. We suggest you use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to ‘read’ all your customer comments. Our Artificial Intelligence platform does this, breaking customer comments down by theme and sentiment (shameless plug).

Sentiment Analytics Graph

This avoids biases and gives you the best of both a qualitative and quantitative approach.

You get fast and accurate insights on how exactly customers feel about their experiences and easily spot opportunities to optimize and personalize to their needs.

We spotted Airbnb using this and is one of the many reasons why they are one of our champions of the Travel sector. Their head of CX talks about it here:

“At the end of the day, we make advances by putting the feedback into categories, aligning it to the journey or frames as we call them, and driving change. The first step is to get everyone comfortable with the new data, processes, and tools. The second step is to get people focused on driving change based on the insights. By focusing in this way, we know we will continue to make Airbnb a compelling experience for our hosts, guests and employees.”

Aisling Hassell- Head of CX, Airbnb

Premier Inn is another great example of an organisation that does this right. They monitor their Net Guest Score religiously and use their analysis to drive innovation, in tandem with developing their own Hub- specific technology designed for customer experience improvements . It’s no surprise that they have also been rated the #1 hotel chain in the UK.

Phase 3: Implement Changes

The final step is to act on the insights you get from customer feedback. How you do this depends on your own data and it will be slightly different for each organisation, but there are some underlying patterns we’ve seen in companies that underpin successful NPS campaigns.

Make sure everyone in the company has access to the analytics. Marketers do smarter marketing and achieve personalisation at scale, experiences now reflect preferences. Customer support and operations become data driven toward dealing with issues and have the ability to prioritise planning. Management have visibility on the pulse of their customers, strategies can be deployed and innovation harnessed.

Ultimately, accountability is improved and everyone understands the fundamental drivers behind customer experiences.

So there you have it, one hack to win at CX.

Data Drivers

We understand this can be daunting task to take on, and one blog post isn’t going to revolutionise the way customer feedback is done in the Travel sector. We do however believe our platform is the best place to start.


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    Jack Miller

    As a CX Analyst, I work with companies designing their customer journeys to ensure they are both comprehensive and accurate. Applying cross sector best practices and an understanding of each business’s unique relationship with their customer base, I focus on identifying what elements need to be put in place to take each organisation from their current level of customer understanding to a best in class understanding of all customers.