airport scene, travellers on walkway
PHOTO: William Navarro

With a record 5.7 million passengers expected to fly domestically in the US between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6, this holiday season will put significant pressure on travel and hospitality businesses. High passenger volume, the heightened emotions of customers who are eager to reach their destinations, and rampant competition mean patience is limited and the risk of churn is high. Considering that more than two-thirds of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, it’s critical that companies in these industries continue delivering exceptional experiences despite the busyness of the holidays.

In order to deliver outstanding customer care, businesses should perform three crucial actions: optimize digital channels to boost traveler engagement, train contact center employees to handle specific situations, and leverage the surplus of customer experience data to make informed decisions that will help the business drive sales and loyalty in the future.  

Go Digital During the Holidays

Holiday travel is practically synonymous with stress. Whether struggling through the logistical nightmare of traveling with a large group or facing the pressure of arriving at family celebrations on time, customers are less likely to forgive mistakes. This reality also means the companies that offer a superior customer experience (CX) have the opportunity to garner additional appreciation, and providing exceptional digital care is one way to help reach this goal.  

In the travel industry, it’s crucial for passengers to have timely and accurate information regarding flight delays, gate changes and security information in order to make their trips as seamless as possible. In one example of how a company used digital improvements to create a better experience for all its travelers, United Airlines released a new version of its smartphone app that not only alerts passengers when there are flight delays but also attempts to alleviate stress by providing details about the delay reasons and actions taken to address the issue.

Flight and hotel bookings represent another important component of holiday experiences, and the ease of site navigation can significantly impact the experience of potential travelers. With 96% of customers becoming disloyal after a high-effort service interaction, the ability to provide an effortless user-experience is key to keeping customers happy and mitigating the risk of churn.

Related Article: Don't Let Your CX Efforts Go Bust Over the Holidays

Prepare the Contact Center for an Influx of Inquiries 

Contact center efficiency plays a huge role in a company’s ability to effectively help distressed travelers. The holidays often bring an increased volume of inquiries, exposing contact center agents to becoming overwhelmed. To proactively prepare for the season, companies should administer specialized holiday training sessions to increase efficiency and mitigate negative impact on customer satisfaction.

These sessions will equip contact center agents to resolve issues and provide action-oriented solutions while promoting quick responses and reducing effort for both the customer and the agents. With 62% of customers citing staff incompetency and negative attitudes as the main reasons for their complaints, agent training sessions should also emphasize the importance of displaying empathy and professionalism. This early preparation will help contact centers operate smoothly and handle high pressure interactions.

Related Article: The Customer Experience Hierarchy

Get a Head Start on Building Brand Loyalty in 2020

As the year comes to an end, companies should take stock of customer feedback and operationalize insights across the company. As part of this process, business leaders can create solutions, procedures and products that increase loyalty regardless of the time of year.

For example, data can drive operational improvement for in-flight experience options. A granular analysis of customer feedback data can reveal information about fliers’ attitudes and opinions about elements such as the food, seating, and entertainment that’s available. Based on this information, airlines can make informed changes to drive higher customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and ROI in the new year. 

Despite an increase in travel and additional pressure on customer service teams, companies should look at the holiday season as an opportunity to find ways to deliver exceptional customer experiences that generate repeat business and long term loyalty.

Related Article: Measure Twice, Act Infinitely — As if Your Customer Experience Depends on It