We all spend an indecent amount of time dreaming of travel – swimming with dolphins, skiing down the Alps – when we should really be making more productive use of our time. And these dreams aren’t shelved; they’re bought. People want to buy holidays.
Consumers are starting to become more confident in their post-recession footing, and this is being reflected in the fortunes of the travel industry. Since 2010, the amount of leisure trips taken by UK consumers has increased by 10%. In the US, total consumer spend is set to grow by 22% over the next five years, with “non-essential” purchases, like going on holiday, seeing the biggest boost. And in the Netherlands, spending on holidays has just increased for the first time since 2012.
The business of dreaming
Dreaming can be lucrative. And 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, and Travel Management Groups (TMGs) should grab on to with two firm, sunblocked, hands.
Of course, it’s an opportunity that’s already being jumped on by aggregators and other disruptive platform-led companies like AirBnb and Hopper. These companies have succeeded by using data to deliver simple, streamlined services that offer access to a wide range of price-driven choices. They have placed the control of the booking experience squarely in the palm of the consumer, making it easy to take a DIY approach to holidaying.
Understanding the modern consumer
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. And, with 30% of millennials booking with a Travel Agent in the last year, the charge towards a superior customer experience is being driven by the most connected generation.
So with everything naturally panning into place for Travel Agents, it’s disappointing that many aren’t using the data that’s already being collected on their websites to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Travel Agents need to personalize their contact channels
Our new report, ‘Using Data to Develop a Concierge Mindset in the Travel Industry’ uncovered that, despite the fact that European Travel Agents have a steep average of 25 trackers on their websites, only 6% are using dynamic numbers that connect the online visitor directly with a call center advisor. The vast majority of travel agents aren’t using information about each individual online journey to educate offline communications, in real-time. Put simply, by neglecting to connect online and offline experiences, Travel Agents are increasing consumer frustration and reducing opportunities to secure sales.
And the actual online customer experience, more often than not, fails to match up with the consumer’s main reason for visiting a holiday website; to dream. Google’s Head of Industry for travel Anna Sawbridge points to the 96% of people who visit Travel Agents’ websites with no intention of converting. They come to be inspired. Instead, they’re bombarded with sales messages. Our research found that it only takes 3 clicks for online visitors to be pushed into the order funnel. By sticking too closely to a transactional model tailored towards the 4% of visitors looking to make an immediate purchase, Travel Agents run the risk of not providing the experience that the majority are looking for.
Diversify for a better customer experience
There’s also a distinct lack of contact channel diversity on European Travel Agents’ websites. Only 22% have either chat or call-back available as channels on their sites. Considering the range of different priorities that each unique web visitor has, it’s not enough to channel every single customer either towards making an online purchase, or an assisted purchase through the call center.
Travel Agents have an opportunity to claim a new, significant, subset of consumers who are hungry for an amazing customer experience. But in order to maintain their attention, they need to do more to transform their online contact channel experience.
For a fuller look at the issues that Travel Agents must combat in order to deliver a concierge-level customer experience, download our latest e-book today.