Earlier this year, we published a report that detailed exactly what travel agents have to do in order to deliver the personalization that their consumers demand. Despite an obvious hunger for personalized online journeys, our research found that the majority of travel agents simply aren’t delivering. In fact, they’re falling really far behind with digital development; 78% don’t have chat or call-back facilities on their websites, with a further 90% lacking any dynamic contact channels.
You may have already read the report, in which case we’ll stop short of rehashing everything here. If you haven’t, then take a minute to dive deeper into the research here.
Disruptive travel companies are gaining ground
A lot can change over the course of a few months, particularly in an industry as competitive as travel. And since publishing our paper, the companies who are most aggressively encroaching on ground traditionally held by travel agents have been spreading their wings and adding to their already impressive CX portfolios.
Here are four more reasons why travel agents need to have a serious think about improving the digitalization of their sales and service:
- AirBnb has introduced ‘Trips’. The most disruptive company in the industry has dug its claws even deeper into traditional travel agent territory by increasing its bespoke offering. In addition to excursions with cultural leaders around some of the world’s biggest cities, the company’s new in-destination app features insider guidebooks, meetups and free audio tours. By attempting to own the voice of ‘the insider’ within the travel industry, AirBnb is taking a shot at the ace card for many travel agents. And travel agents need to respond with a better offer of personalization, fast.
- Skyscanner has been bought out for €1.6bn. Flight aggregator Skyscanner has been sold to Chinese travel company Ctrip. While most of the press noise has centered around China buying into a UK-based company, it’s inevitable that a buyout from such a successful company (Ctrip generated almost €50bn in online sales in 2015) will help Skyscanner towards delivering a superior CX. It’s definitely worth watching to see how this new relationship develops.
- Expedia is now Alexa-enabled. “Who needs a travel agent when you’ve got Alexa?” That’s the quote that leads DigitalTrends’ article, and it’s not one that should be taken lightly. Expedia has now integrated its itineraries into Alexa, Amazon’s at-home personal assistant, which means that Alexa users can simply speak up and ask about any aspect of an upcoming trip booked through Expedia. It may seem like a minor step forward, but it’s an extra level of convenience that could make the difference between somebody booking with a traditional agent, or with Expedia.
- Flight predictors are becoming more popular. Services like Hopper, Kayak and Google Flights are gaining traction. They all work to make an educated guess about whether the flight that you’re looking to book will increase, or decrease, in price over the coming months. These new services are giving consumers more insight into how airlines work, and more power over their spending.
Travel agents need to urgently consider how the customer experience that they’re offering is giving them a competitive advantage over industry disruptors. Agents have the advantage of existing at a time when consumers actively prioritize the customer experience, but more needs to be done to make the convenience and personalization of their service immediately clear. The time to act is now.