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Why travel agents are failing to deliver better CX

23rd Aug 2016
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Dreaming is a lucrative business. With Forrester’s recent CX Index emphasizing the huge value that consumers place on a positive customer experience, it’s clear that there’s an opportunity for the people who work with dreams and who already deliver phenomenal one-to-one customer service to thrive. This is a moment that Travel Agents should grab on to with two firm, sunblocked, hands.

Of course, it’s an opportunity that’s already been taken advantage of by disruptive firms including AirBnb and Hopper. These companies, and others like them, have succeeded by using data to deliver simple, streamlined services that hand over the control of the booking experience to the consumer. DIY holidaying has never been easier.

But consumers don’t always want to DIY. If they’re not operating on a shoestring, they are more than happy to use services that take the effort of organizing a holiday off their hands, ensuring that a stress-free holiday starts the moment that they start booking it. That’s why the percentage of Americans from households earning more than $50,000 who have booked with a Travel Agent has increased from 14% in 2013 to 22% this year.

Why aren’t Travel Agents delivering an acceptable online CX?

With everything naturally panning into place for Travel Agents, it’s disappointing that many aren’t using the data that’s being collected on their websites to deliver the best possible customer experience.

A new report, published by omnichannel technology vendor Now Interact, has revealed the disparity that exists between consumer expectations for the customer experience and the experience that Travel Agents are actually delivering.

The research found that only 6% of Travel Agents are using dynamic numbers to connect online visitors directly with an advisor in the call center, indicating that the vast majority of individual online journeys are completely forgotten about the moment that the visitor goes offline. And with a lack of contact channel diversity on their sites (only 22% are chat or call-back enabled), it’s clear that not enough is being done to build ideal customer experiences that match each visitor’s unique needs.

Travel Agents need to get better at using data

Travel Agents should be using behavioral data to build a real-time picture of each visitor, using this data to determine which contact channel treatment (if any) they should be served. And if an online visitor is connected with an advisor in the call center, the advisor should be clued up with details about the caller’s complete online journey. Consumers love personalization, and buying a holiday is a highly personal investment; Travel Agents should be doing far more to use their data in a way that respects this.

At the moment, the current online model is far too transactionally focused. Travel Agents are failing to grasp why most people are on their websites; they’re there primarily to dream, not to fill up their basket with a quick break for two to the Algarve and a trip of a lifetime to Peru. Google’s Head of Industry for travel estimates that only 4% of online visitors to Travel Agents’ websites are looking to buy. Failing to find space for the vast majority of visitors to dream is only hurting Travel Agents’ ability to deliver a decent customer experience.

Travel Agents are standing at the precipice of a period of incredible growth. All that they need to do to reap the rewards is to embrace data, personalize their contact channels and work towards offering a stress-free, and seamless, online customer experience.

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