When Building Back, Put Customers First
As the travel and hospitality industry reopens, providers are focused on keeping operational costs in line and managing the complexities of hiring and training their workforce.
In this moment, travel and hospitality providers must also remember the importance of being customer-obsessed. The slate has been wiped clean on customer loyalty. For most travelers and guests, it’s been more than a year since they took a vacation or were on the road racking up miles and points. Yes, loyalty program status levels and earnings have been extended, but without a recent experience with the brand, and with the travel and hospitality landscape now completely different, true loyalty—the hearts and minds of customers—is up for grabs.
Why focus on loyalty now?
Patterns have shifted
Customer reasons for why, when, or how long they will fly, stay, or eat are different now. The road warrior business traveler who chose a carrier because it offered the first direct flight out on a Monday morning might no longer find that a reason to stay loyal, especially if in-person client meetings are now only monthly. The commuter who always frequented the fast casual chain across from their office building might now stock up on groceries instead, if they are regularly working from home. And the vacationer who used homesharing options for weekend roadtrips during the pandemic might now plan getaways to locations without traditional hotels, if they enjoyed discovering nearby hidden gems. With patterns upended, forecasting is even more difficult because historical data is effectively useless.
Options have shifted
The options to meet customer needs in travel and hospitality are now completely different. In airlines, routes and flight times have changed. Plus, prices across the board are cheap – US domestic fares are at a 25-year low and fares for all destinations are down around 30% from 2019 prices. In hospitality, hotel locations have partially reopened or modified value-adding services like breakfast buffets and turndowns. In restaurants, delivery marketplaces have exploded while local and chain operators alike offer pickup, to-go, and delivery options in addition to once-standard dine-in.
Expectations have shifted
The criteria that travelers and guests use when selecting a provider look different, too. The obvious one is cleanliness protocols, but diving deeper, other enhancements that were born of the pandemic—keyless automatic check-in, digital app functionality that makes reservations easier to manage, and delivery straight to the door—are now table stakes. They make the experience easier for customers.
Given these shifts, customers might no longer feel the same trust or preference for a brand that they used to. And with this fresh perspective, customers are paying attention not just to the brands they used to fly, stay, and eat with, but to other providers, too. Travel and hospitality providers have a unique opportunity to focus on winning back customer hearts by providing a customer-obsessed experience—and those who do it well might pick up some customers who were previously loyal to their competitors.
Some are leading the way
For example, Taco Bell revamped its brand-owned loyalty program and paired it with newly established digital channels to meet customer demand for delivery. These efforts were so successful at meeting customer needs that Taco Bell now expects more than 50% of its sales to come through digital channels. It’s using AI/ML for personalization at scale to deliver highly individualized customer experiences on these channels.
IHG Hotels and Resorts recently launched new touchless in-room digital functionality through the in-room TV, which makes it possible for guests to pay with points and cast livestreams straight from their mobile devices. These innovations create a customer-obsessed experience that will keep travelers and guests coming back to the brand for their next stay.
App8 empowered restauranteurs with a simple solution for contactless digital menus that allows customers to order and pay without needing to create an account or install an app, improving the guest experience. It also launched ML-powered demand prediction on the menu-item level to ensure popular options could be kept available. These customer-first features not only keep up with customer expectations, they helped App8 earn trust with their restaurant partners and deepen their relationships. You can read about this and other forecasting success stories in our new white paper on 21st Century Forecasting.
How AWS can help
When it comes to winning loyalty, travel and hospitality providers need to offer tailored, memorable, relevant, context-aware, digital-first customer experiences. AWS offerings can help wow customers to keep them coming back. And many of the offerings for travel and hospitality are based on the same technologies used by Amazon.com to create best-in-class, customer-obsessed experiences:
- Modern Contact Center for omnichannel contact centers.
- Amazon Pinpoint for targeted communications and messaging.
- Amazon Lex for AI-powered natural language processing of voice and text.
- Amazon Personalize for real-time personalized recommendations.
These solutions not only generate loyalty and mindshare, they’re also scalable, flexible, and low-cost, helping providers to build back, ready for what’s next. For more information about how AWS is transforming the industry, visit the Travel and Hospitality page.