In this fast-paced world with evolving technologies, each and every consumer expects the best experience with ease regardless of the industry or the market. The year 2020 has been a wake-up call for many, which has changed the way industries used to work and approach their practices. Today, in addition to a frictionless experience, safety and precaution is quickly becoming not only a prerequisite but also a selling point.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been quite rough on the travel industry leaving many small and medium-sized businesses completely paralyzed. However, travel operations are now resuming again with new parameters and operational procedures. Even in this adversity, the travel industry is rising again and forging ahead for providing the best customer experience in this new normal.
So, what has this ‘new normal’ taught us peeps in the travel fraternity? We now know that customers are much more aware of their physical surroundings – the objects they touch, and people they interact with, and the ways (or the channels through which) they avail their services. Consumers today don’t just travel to their destination without looking up from their smartphones, their smartphones have become a part of their reality and an essential component of their life cycles. Therefore, it is essential that businesses today understand this transition and look for ways to leverage this direct channel of seamless contact in order to build meaningful and sustainable relationships with their consumers.
User behaviour towards the travel industry has undergone a massive transformation. The modern-day traveller not only compares the best deals overbooking websites but also compares the travel agencies and their reputation against everybody else before making a purchase decision. Therefore, the modern traveller is educated, knowledgeable and quite astute when it comes to their purchases. However, this also provides businesses an opportunity to connect with their consumers by providing a seamless experience as the customer is much more inclined towards frequenting a service if all their essential criteria are met. This makes retaining customers easier if, and only if, all of their ever-evolving chain of needs and wants are met.
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The abundance of options available to users today has made it even tougher for online booking websites – they need to constantly assess their reach and make sure that their platform performs better than their immediate competitor lest they fall behind.
Today, a booking website with just a user-friendly design is not enough. The expectations of users are constantly on the rise and to meet that, travel agencies need to perform at their very best in order to ensure competitive advantage. They need to provide a wide gamut of solutions to attract customers and to be the one-stop solution for all their travel needs, they need to constantly better their services to meet the changing models of customer expectations.
As discussed before, modern consumers are smart and they know their requirements right down to the wire. A large number of customers approach comparison websites like Trivago to compare deals before making a final decision. This means that even a single bad experience to the user can set a company’s journey to the down south through bad customer reviews. The core services of online travel agencies include a smooth interface with user-friendly design, mobile-friendliness, advanced filtering and sorting of options, accurate hotel content, pricing and promotions. Each and every one of these components plays a critical role for booking websites when it comes to expanding their customer base and revenues.
The customer experience and the relative customer journey is extremely important and it should be swift both online and offline, along with personalization and safety precautions. User ratings and customer experience decide a company’s true value and reputation, and any friction in the services can lead to large numbers of negative feedback from the customers on multiple platforms.
As a result, we have put together the following 3 key points through which travel agencies can meet customer expectations in the new normal:
- Flexibility: This year was extremely unpredictable for travel agencies. For OTAs, flexibility is one of the most important aspects. They need to make new policies that can adapt along with such unforeseen changes, like business meetings that may get delayed or vacations that need to be cancelled because due to sudden travel restrictions being imposed. OTAs need to provide their customers with a vote of confidence for any unexpected situation in this new normal.
- Security: COVID-19 has made everyone aware and more concerned about their surroundings when it comes to security and hygiene. In this new normal, travellers will make hygiene and safety measures a top priority when choosing their accommodation. So OTAs need to pay special attention to providing this extra information to their customers for ensuring safety on their travel journey.
- Hospitality: Most OTAs focus on providing crucial information regarding listings of hotels while considering other details such as safety and hygiene secondhand. However, OTAs now must also ensure that additional detailed information like services included in the stay, the time they take to take to respond to queries, security measures, pickup and drop facility etc. is provided to customers. In addition, they must provide detailed explanations and information regarding local measures pertaining to COVID-19, social distancing protocols and other restrictions adopted by the local government so as to ensure that their customers are kept updated.
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All of the points listed above will play a crucial role in deciding a customer’s journey on an online booking platform. It is all in the hands of OTAs to provide their users with what they are looking for in this new normal.
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