By Julie Hoffmann, Head of Industry Strategy and Marketing – Travel at Adobe
Covid-19 has changed how travel, hospitality, and dining brands operate. Resilience, above all else, is proving to be key for these companies right now. There are many challenges the industry is facing in connecting with customers to improve business during the disruption. Even with these struggles, there are ways to earn trust and loyalty through exceptional customer experiences. Here are some tips on how to transform offline processes to digital, better understand your customers, and make communications proactive.
The focus for travel companies
Closed borders and mandated safety precautions has transformed everyone’s daily life and temporarily shuttered an industry designed to create memorable experiences. Tourism is the third biggest contributor in Malaysia in 2018, contributing 5.9 percent to the total GDP, according to Statista.
A crucial element for travel companies now is supporting customers worldwide who must rethink and redo their travel plans. Digital has been the fastest way during this emergency.
Consumers are proactively reaching out to call centres and across a variety of digital channels seeking support on how to manage trips. One way is through artificial intelligence. AI can be a critical path to create the right experiences for customers across their journey for assistance.
The sea of change in hospitality and dining
Restaurants are expected to pivot from a “dining out” business model to a focus on online orders by tweaking and streamlining their menus to offer food that travels well.
Almost all dining outlets have had to start offering more delivery and self-pick up options. Other parts of the ecosystem like third-party delivery systems (think: GrabFood and Foodpanda) are also supporting restaurants by staying open and providing offers to customers.
Additionally, as restaurants go online, there becomes a need for digital solutions to connect with customers, because diners ordering more food online. Now, restaurant owners and “front of house” staff should be considering how they orchestrate this new customer journey.
Recovery is top on everyone’s mind
Whether a small travel company or big airline, restaurant chain or food delivery service, travel, hospitality, and dining companies need to build business resilience. Here are three strategies to guide the way.
1. Know your customer Understanding your customer’s context is critical to serving them well in a crisis. Use your data (and AI) to detect anomalies in customer behaviour and signs of renewed interest that would reflect recovery.
Some customers willing to travel sooner than others during the recovery period:
- Business travellers
- Travellers that had specific celebrations scheduled (weddings, reunions, etc.)
- Travellers that were slow to cancel in hopes that they could still travel Younger demos like Millennials/Gen Z who have shown a renewed interest in travel deals being offered
Like travel, dining brands will have customers willing to eat out sooner and return to previous dining habits:
- Identify the people (through your data) who dined more frequently; put them at the top of your engagement list
- These same customers may have a higher likelihood to order delivery
2. Lean into digital self-service For travel companies, customer behaviour rapidly changes from booking to high-volume cancellations, call centres are being overloaded with questions. Personalising the process can support a customer through the climate of change with care.
Travel companies can ease call centre costs by:
- Build new resources for customers based on new FAQs and challenges arising
- Reducing unnecessary call centre questions
- Increasing the use of online and mobile sites and apps, and self-service for rebooking
- Identifying areas of friction on the website or other digital channels so self-service is easier
For hospitality and dining, digital self-service might be a new “muscle” to flex. To continue to drive revenue, restaurants are depending on third party delivery services while new procedures are being implemented for contactless drop-off. These changes require bridging the gap between physical and online strategies focusing offline to essential activities.
How restaurants can manage brick & mortar to digital shifts:
- Inform customers you are open for business
- Provide details on how they can manage their contactless delivery to support social distancing
- Ensure the digital journey is seamless with staff operations
- Ease concerns about the safety of food preparation and food delivery
For many food establishments, it may be time to consider an ecommerce solution.
3.Proactive empathic communication The best ways to support customers, build trust and gain loyalty is to become a trusted advisor. This means early and immediate communication on the issue at hand. For the industry, addressing areasi where customer service might be delayed with a note of thanks helps to resolve some of the friction that cannot be mitigated due to various challenges.
- Frequent communications on how and in what way operations are continuing to support local outlets during the crisis.
- Emails/digital content from the C-Suite on new policies and procedures.
- Future messages tied to the canceled trip location for easy re-booking when restrictions lift.
- Creating content at speed is a foundational element to real-time communications.