Making Little Things Count In Big Ways
With global oil prices as volatile as ever and the threat of terrorism hanging over everything a tourist does, you might envision a climate that spells doom for the travel and hospitality industry. Far from it. Companies that are smart about customer service are experiencing stronger performance than ever. And the driver behind this performance is educating guests and passengers through web-based tools and allowing them to shop, compare and choose hotel rooms and airplane seats. These informed travelers are expecting more out of their destinations of choice, and the smartest hoteliers and travel companies are delivering through their command of customer expectations and technology-enabled capabilities.
The very best in the industry now see their mandate as staying on top of customer relationships throughout all facets of their journey - and then some. What I mean is that hoteliers and airlines know that consumers have more choice than ever before, so the way they distinguish themselves is by learning about each and every person who comes through their doors and sustaining a positive relationship with them. To be sure, technology is an invaluable tool in this regard, but now it's all about using the technology the right way.
In fact, one of my favorite examples from the hospitality industry doesn't involve IT at all. A housekeeping staff charged with preparing rooms in a St. Louis Ritz-Carlton noticed that every time a certain guest stayed with them, he would move the desk toward the window, which gave him plenty of natural light and a beautiful view of downtown St. Louis from his chair. This information was communicated to the front desk, and the next time the guest checked in, he found the desk in his desired spot. This story is a perfect example of how it's not only about a hotel chain buying a ton of IT solutions and suddenly becoming top-rated in all the right categories. It's about remembering to create a positive experience through the 'human' touch.
Still, technology enables game-changing capabilities. In the United States today, leisure travel is about 3.5 times larger than business travel (driven in part by stingy travel budgets and vastly improved video and teleconferencing). Travel companies are leveraging technology to create more options for the leisure traveler. Have you heard of 'experience travel'? That's the name given to holidays that involve 'experiencing' the local flavor, soaking in the culture or even fitting in some charitable work! Yes, today's travelers are looking for much more than just sitting idle on a beach. For example, World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers offers travelers a chance to live and work on a farm and learn agricultural techniques.Technology is allowing travel companies to create, bundle, and offer these differentiating experiences to holidaymakers. And thanks to social media, these experiences are amplified and promoted (online reviews have more importance than ever!).
In the future, consumers can expect - and will no doubt demand - better experiences from the industry. Think of all the data the industry possesses (hint: reservation history!). And companies will use advances in big data analytics to parse data and determine future traveler needs, and match that to the economic value of that traveler to provide unique, desirable, and profitable experiences. Doing so allows them to align benefits with the appropriate mechanisms, be it direct mailings or a targeted social media campaign.
What technology is doing is making many little things count in big ways. It's about giving a travel and hospitality company the opportunity to take advantage of better intelligence around what they're already doing.