CX Trends and Challenges in Travel & Hospitality | Uniphore

CX Trends and Challenges in Travel & Hospitality | Uniphore

4 min read

In our recent webinar, “Intelligent Customer Service for Travel & Hospitality”, Omer Minkara, Vice President and Principal Analyst for Aberdeen Strategy & Research joined Uniphore’s Chief Marketing Office Annie Weckesser to discuss the top CX trends, challenges and opportunities shaping the travel and hospitality industry. Couldn’t attend the live event? We have you covered. Read on for part one of our webinar recap: Top Goals & Challenges Influencing Digital Service Programs.

What is the state of travel and hospitality today?

Few industries were hit harder by the 2020 global pandemic than the travel and hospitality industry. Today, with the industry steadily regaining its footing, it faces new pressure from pent-up customer demand and higher-than-ever remote service expectations. At the same time, ongoing staffing shortages—from flight crew members to customer service representatives—are forcing businesses to reevaluate how they interact with customers. “People are spending more time traveling then they have over the past two years,” observes Annie Weckesser, Chief Marketing Officer – Uniphore. “It’s going to be challenging to keep doing more with less on an ongoing basis.”

What are the leading travel and hospitality CX trends to look for in 2022 and beyond?

Omer Minkara, Vice President and Principal Analyst for Aberdeen Strategy & Research, agrees with Weckesser’s assessment. “People want to reconnect with friends and family [and] explore the world,” he says. “But they also want to do it conveniently. They want to do it with brands that they trust.”

That convenience, coupled with rising customer empowerment, is forcing travel and hospitality providers to rethink their CX strategies. “Customers are asking businesses to become more agile in the way they interact with them,” Minkara explains. “So, that means if there’s a sudden demand for a particular location, if there’s a shortage of pilots or if there are weather issues, they want the providers to be able to address that demand.”

“We’re really seeing the rise of convenience among empowered customers.”

Omer Minkara, Vice President and Principal Analyst for Aberdeen Strategy & Research

It should come as no surprise that today’s leading CX initiatives, in one way or another, are all with digital agility. According to a survey of travel and hospitality providers by Aberdeen:

A woman sitting on the floor with luggage and a laptop, facing challenges in Travel & Hospitality.

“On the business side, there’s a need for greater integration across different business departments,” Minkara observes. “So, if flights are delayed or customers are asking for reimbursements for [canceled flights], for example, they want the experience interacting with the whole business to be consistent. They want that unified customer experience.”

What challenges are travel and hospitality companies facing as they transform their digital experiences?

Despite recent gains, travel and hospitality still lags far behind other industries in digitizing its customer experience. Even companies that have implemented digital initiatives, like self-service portals and FAQ chatbots, still largely operate in a siloed or departmental manner. This inflexibility and lack of end-to-end communication frustrates customers who are used to the unified experiences they’ve come to expect from other digital service providers. “It’s a battle a lot of customers are fighting today,” Minkara explains, “being able to interact with businesses on their own terms versus the terms that businesses dictate to them.”

Weckesser agrees. She’s seen travel and hospitality providers who try to “correct” outmoded business processes with technology—only to be disappointed later.  To her, service providers undergoing digital transformation today face three chief challenges:

Finding a balance between customer demands and business costs

Delivering the seamless end-to-end experience customers have come to expect from other industries can be costly in terms of staff and resources. However, conversational AI and automation can actually help reduce costs by eliminating process pain points and pinpointing customer concerns for faster, more effective resolution. For example, an intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) that detects a customer’s intent—beyond a simple FAQ script—can better route their call to the right source. “IVA that detects intent eliminates friction, provides convenience and drives the right experience,” Weckesser explains. As a result, an IVA that uses conversational AI can reduce costly holds, average handle times (AHT) and even lengthy after-call work (ACW).

Empowering employees to be better brand stewards

According to Weckesser, there’s a real connection between empowered employees and happy customers. And it’s not just about creating a feel-good experience. Research by Uniphore shows that empowered—and consequently engaged—employees are better performers, more empathetic communicators and less likely to leave than their disengaged peers. How do travel and hospitality providers empower their employees to better serve their customers? With the right technology. According to a Calabrio study on the Health of the Contact Center, 60% of agents say they need better tools to handle the rise in complex customer interactions. By automating manual backend tasks and augmenting agent skills with artificial intelligence, CX providers can empower their employees to be more efficient, effective and empathetic.

Underbudgeting for technology needs

“Historically, the travel and hospitality industry has skimped on technology spending compared to other industries,” Weckesser acknowledges. Today, as a result of the global pandemic, the industry has even fewer resources—in budget and personnel—than before. Ironically, it’s precisely for this reason that the industry can no longer afford to neglect investing in technology. On the CX side, conversational AI and automation can break down internal siloes, connect and consolidate disparate tech stacks and eliminate redundant backend processes—all of which helps businesses improve operational efficiency and, ultimately, do more with less.

Couldn’t attend the webinar?

“Intelligent Customer Service for Travel & Hospitality”

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