Improving Customer Experience on Travel Sites in 2019

There are many OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) – with websites and mobile channels these days which help people to book tickets from one place to another. These sites struggle to offer a great customer Experience.

Off late – traditional eCommerce players like Amazon & Flipkart in India have also ventured into the space of online flight ticket bookings. We have also seen players like Goibibo venture into this space of flight ticket bookings.

A friend of mine who was planning a trip to Bali had booked a ticket from a similar site and the site had shown options to him based on the connectivity and price. He found the best deal on this site and then booked the ticket.
He made hotel reservations too. In all frenzy and joyous mood – he along with his wife arrived to onboard the flight from Bangalore airport. To his dismay he found that he could not be given entry because his flight was enroute Kuala Lumpur (KL) and KL wouldnt allow entry without a Visa. He had no option but to return home and cancel all plans. This can happen to anyone and would have happened to many !

This is an example of an extreme customer experience – a bad one. As such it becomes very important to understand what entails a great customer experience . Below are few must do things as per my opinion:

1. Make the core Need of flight ticket booking as seamless as possible

This actually means simplifying the ticket booking process. This means not only helping the customer online but also factoring things like Visa entries and checks.

We will talk about how to use technology to achieve great customer in subsequent posts.

2. Make the core need of hotel reservations as seamless as possible

Not all players are in this space but helping consumers with enough rationale & emotion pointers can ease him out of the process of hotel booking.

3. Aim for a great experience outside price 

Travel is all about experience and memories. So, if you have user generated content on your site or have partnerships with local guides – use these to send a list of things to do on the trip. You need a good sense of your customer journey and domain knowledge to avoid mishaps similar to what I described earlier.

A great experience is when you say to your consumer – “since you are a member of this or have booked ticket from us and Visiting place X: You can try out this great spa at place X and at a special discount”.

A great experience is when you say to your consumer – “This is a list of 10 things you should do based on the stay of the consumer.” This list can be in different categories like :
– What to eat or try out
– Things to visit or experience : You can also suggest a map of nearby places to visit based on social data.
– Whatto Shop before visiting place X : eCommerce players have already set up stores on vacation specific themes

A great experience is when you say to your consumer – “Since you are visiting place X – You can book cabs using Uber and get a flat Off”. This need not be a heavy discount but just enough to ensure unit economics wont hurt.

What we discussed above are examples of

1)Personalization of Offers/ Discounts on basis of user data 

2)Content Recommendations on basis of user data 

Even if you have dont have enough user or item data and face a cold start problem you can easily use social data to generate content based recommendations

3)Partnerships : With local guides of retailers or cab aggregators/ anyone else for that matter

All these are examples of a great customer throughout the entire journey.

So you dont need to use a chatbot to answer some queries or use Augmented Reality to show how do the interiors of a hotel look like or launch an Alexa skill to help people book tickets or launch bitcoin based loyalty programmes. These are the next level initiatives to enhance customer experience.

In essence – just focus on doing the basic incredibly right first and then you can target the next level use cases.

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