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Now boarding: Mobile transforms the travel industry

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In honor of the UN’s World Tourism Day on September 27th, I began thinking back to a time (if possible) when the internet and mobile didn’t touch every aspect of our lives.

Back to a time when anyone making a purchase or working with customers needed to engage face-to-face, usually in a retail environment, or over the phone.

Times are definitely changing now. It’s almost impossible not to recognize that as mobile transforms the travel industry, it’s also altering the customer experience.

Now boarding group CX

When it came to booking travel, one of the most difficult aspects was comparing and purchasing airline tickets, followed closely by reserving a hotel, or renting a car. If you weren’t fortunate enough to have a travel agent, you’d need to spend time looking through airline-provided printed schedules.

Think that’s no big deal? Check out this image of United Air Lines schedule from 1931 – note the number of stops needed if traveling from New York to San Francisco. Can imagine you FIVE connecting flights?

Even if one did manage to purchase tickets via the phone, they next needed to coordinate somehow attaining their printed tickets, which required being picked up at the airport or travel office well in advance of the flight.

Mobile’s impact on travel has been enormous. As a frequent global traveler, I sometimes find myself in awe of the mobile travel ecosystem, all managed through a small device carried in my pocket. All of my research that guides purchasing decisions can be done right from my mobile phone.

Let’s go a step further on mobile’s impact on the journey, beyond just travel arrangements.

Remember taking pictures? Rather than bring an expensive camera with multiple lenses, the same device that helped you plan and purchase your trip captures your memories as well. And the quality is incredible!

Unlocking the doors of innovation: Mobile transforms the travel industry

For the travel provider, mobile’s impact isn’t as obvious, but arguably has an equally powerful result. Many costly elements of the customer engagement process have been simplified and optimized thanks to mobile.

Here are a few examples of how mobile is transforming CX in the travel industry:

Door keys: Some hotels and vehicle rental companies now offer keyless entry via a preregistered and authenticated mobile device.

Advance check-in services: Providing a better dashboard into hotel inventory, as well as peace of mind to a stressed traveler, advance check-in assures that comfortable accommodations awaits them.

Customer Service: Vendors can provide near real-time and personalized responses to customer issues and concerns via multiple mobile channels, including SMS, social media, and of course voice.

Loyalty: It’s never been easier to earn points for loyalty travelers, thanks to simplified apps for each hotel chain, airline, etc.

Internally: A property manager can use mobile to locate and communicate with employees, perhaps tying together a customer issue with a support person who can resolve the issue quickly and efficiently.

Jenny, don’t lose that number: Engaging consumers post-journey

Customer engagement doesn’t end when the traveler’s journey ends. Travel organizations and providers continue to engage the consumer, sending offers and promotions directly to mobile, perhaps using it to sell last-minute inventory that may otherwise go unsold.

According to Ovum, more than 70% of consumers plan to use SMS “the same or more often than they do now.” Enterprises should be doing more SMS with customers.

At Mobile World Congress last year, we asked enterprises “What channels are you considering or using when engaging with your customer?” Overwhelmingly, they indicated SMS is incredibly popular with consumers.

We all realize and accept the influence and impact of mobile – and intelligent, interconnected engagements – on our lives. It is the foundation of the digital economy. When discussing the digital economy, it’s impossible not to have mobile technology (“mobile”) at the center of the conversation.

As you create your mobile engagement strategy, ask yourself three things:

  1. Are you creating intelligent and engaging conversations?
  2. Is mobile ambient data part of your insight strategy?
  3. Are you present wherever your customers are in the physical world?

Delivering the right message at the right time is key to mobile success as random, uncoordinated tactics with generic content are no longer effective.

Before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip, mobile can influence the entire digital journey and each touch point of the connected traveler.

Looking forward, according to IDC, mobile’s pervasiveness will continue to accelerate with the expectation that 75% of business travelers will use a digital assistant in 2019. Services such as Concur Travel bot on Slack or Hello Hipmunk are taking the mobile engagement one step further, allowing travelers to purchase travel services, at any time and from any place.

Make sure you’re there to greet your customer.

Ready to mobilize CX for outstanding results? Download the free report here.

Robert Heuser
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Robert Heuser

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