Why the lockdown exit plans leave no time for complacency in the travel sector

The long-awaited announcement finally resounded across the airwaves this week, as we heard that as soon as April the doors will open for self-contained accommodation in the UK; and by mid-May, plane-loads of eager holidaymakers could be making their way down the runways.

Less than 24 hours after the announcement, holiday firms and airlines had already reported a huge surge in bookings with Tui claiming that bookings for trips abroad had skyrocketed by a huge 500% overnight.

Whilst vaccinations and loosening restrictions make the ‘bounce back’ of the travel industry feel more realistic by the day, it would be all too easy to breathe a sigh of relief and sit back as the industry gets back on its feet. However, your customers and their expectations have changed drastically over the past year. Thriving in a post-Covid world means forging new relationships, rebuilding the trust that Covid has severed, and providing a better customer experience than ever before.

Tony Wheble, Chairman and Acting CEO of Feefo stresses the importance of the coming months. “It’s tempting to treat an expected wave of demand with enthusiasm and relief, but one thing I would urge the industry to really take the time and opportunity to optimise their available resource during this period,” says Tony. “In my opinion, it should be a prime time to plan, prepare, improve or fine-tune your core product offering.”

As appealing as it may be to revel in the hotly anticipated bookings that are about to come rolling in, resting on your laurels over the coming months could mean wasting tons of valuable insight that you could otherwise have at your disposal. An influx of bookings means an influx of data - data which could be the gold dust your business needs to create experience that turn from one with lots of spontaneous one-time bookings, into a fiercely loyal customer base who return year after year.

Your customers have changed

How can you possibly deliver an unforgettable experience to a customer base that you know nothing about? When it comes to consumer attitude in 2021, it’s time to throw out the pre-Covid rule book and start from scratch.

Your customers aren’t the same as they once were. Their wants, needs and attitudes have all been turned on their heads over the past year, and it’s time to find out exactly what’s changed. It’s no big surprise that safety has become the top priority for holidaymakers, but the shift in attitude goes much deeper than that, with Covid concerns affecting just about every point of the travel experience. Not only are travelers wanting up-to-date information on restrictions and on-site testing facilities, they’re also looking for more flexible booking procedures and more contactless payment.

Knowing what consumers want, what their priorities are and how they’re changing paves the way to hitting customers’ expectations and making sure they come back to you long after the post-Covid rush is over.

Head to your social channels and check out what your customers are telling you, or start tracking popular travel hashtags to keep on top of the latest trends. Better yet, why not ask them directly with a quick survey designed to gauge future travelling habits and start to predict when and how your customers will look to interact with you moving forward.

Consumer confidence in travel has fallen to the lowest level in over a decade

The past year hasn’t been easy on the travel sector or holidaymakers. Unsurprisingly, data reveals that the travel sector saw the greatest drop in customer satisfaction levels across all industries over the past year, falling to 77.7 – the lowest score since 2009.

With cancellations, overdue refunds and ever-changing travel restrictions causing confusion and frustration for consumers worldwide, it’s no wonder that, in unique and somewhat unfair circumstances, poor customer experience has become synonymous with the travel industry over the last 12 months – something that could potentially leave a bitter taste in traveler’s mouths for years to come if the industry doesn’t put in the much-needed groundwork now.

That being said, consumers are proving to us that they’re ready and willing to travel, and opportunity is there for the taking. The travel companies that will reap the most benefits will be the ones who are able to restore and retain trust the quickest.

“I think as a whole, the industry has suffered some reputation damage and some confidence issues with the consumer”, says Tony. “The whole sector needs to really communicate and behave more consistently to build confidence and regain customer trust”.

After such a shake up, there’s bigger justification than ever to work hard over the next few months to show consumers that you can deliver what you promise. Whilst collecting and displaying customer feedback has always been important in the travel industry – 45% of people read multiple reviews when booking holidays, flights and rail trips – we expect that percentage to quickly rise in a post-Covid world as reviews become even more integral.

Your team need to be prepared and dedicated

Everything we’ve talked about to this point can only be possible if every single member of your team is well and truly on board. With an unusual combination of wavering trust and booking mania, things are going to get busy.

Differentiate yourselves by putting internal processes in place to ensure you’re instilling trust at every single touchpoint, whether that means dealing with the most pressing customer queries first, responding to reviews – both positive and negative, or making sure your polices are well placed on your website. To read more about how you can prepare your team ahead of the rush, check out our guide.

Are you ready?

Hope is on the horizon, and as travel sales finally rise, don’t forget to make sure you’re maximising the opportunities - not only to reinstate the trust that’s taken such a hard hit, but to keep a firm hold on those customers year after year, trip after trip.

Travel firms have always been avid users of customer feedback, but the insight doesn’t have to stop there. Level up and use this time to invest in tools which can really elevate your customer experience. At Feefo, we make it easy to collect the feedback and insight you need to improve your customer experience and build a better travel business. We have all the tools you’ll need to start asking for feedback across your customer journey and understanding customer sentiment at scale. To find out more about how we can help improve your customer experience, get in touch with a member of our team today.

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