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Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 15 : 01 PM [IST]

Digital Connect

anil_batra

Technology has always been a critical business differentiator in the travel and transportation space. Prior to the 90’s, a lot of travel and transportation companies, especially airlines, invested significant time and resources to create and upgrade technological solutions, in-house.

Travel and technology companies are dealing with evolving technology and changing consumer expectations in a highly competitive digital environment. Customer Experience has come to the forefront as one of the most important differentiators in the travel industry. Customer experience is shaped at every perception point and travel and transportation companies need to ensure they are creating favourable impressions with their customers. In order to envision and implement the right Digital Strategy, travel and transportation companies need strong tie-ups with the right ‘domain-focused’ technology partner.

Digital Transformation

In the travel and transportation industry, the shift toward digital first is being driven by a rise in connected travellers, particularly through the use of mobile and social media. More and more customers are using the mobile as a channel for carrying out business transactions and are looking for more tailored and personalised experiences. Through social media, consumers are sharing their experiences—good as well as bad—and influencing brand perception. Digital is not just influencing customer facing applications but is also bringing about a change in the back-end operations and helping travel and transportation companies get a unified view of their business and not just the customer. In this digital age, technology is fast becoming a business enabler instead of just being a tool to support business. Travel and transportation companies need technology to stay ahead of the curve and optimise the digital tools and methodologies to drive their brand image and gain a competitive advantage.

The Connected Traveller

Thanks to the digital era, travellers are more connected than ever before and the impact of a single bad experience can linger for years. Social media is a great influencer and is shaping the overall marketing and customer satisfaction strategy of organisations. Travel planning, actually, starts much before the actual date of travel and customers use social media to help plan their trip and to determine their Travel provider. The complete digital travel life cycle gives the travel and transportation organisations a lot of information about their customers. This information can help organisations understand their customers better and then tailor their services to suit and fulfill the customer needs.

Changing customer behaviour—from being online to using mobile smartphones and other devices like tablets etc., has played a big role in the digital transformation of the travel and transportation sector. The mobile platform gives the customers quick and easy access to real-time information on-the-go. Evolving technology and proliferation of mobile apps enable the travel industry to offer relevant information to the customers. Geolocation services, besides enabling the sale of ancillary services at an opportune time, also help the passengers stay abreast of various changes. Contextual notifications and digital assistants have replaced brick- and-mortar contact centers. The mobile platform is also enabling self-service and helping customers become self-sufficient, which in turn, reduces the scope for manual intervention. The travel and transportation sector can use the mobile platform effectively to improve customer service, grow ancillary sales, reduce operational costs, and at the same time, increase customer loyalty.

Hyper-Personalisation—Enabling Emotionally Empathetic Experiences

Digitisation has helped the travel and transportation sector utilise huge amounts of passenger data available to them effectively. This, in turn, enables a better understanding of the customer, which helps the travel companies customise services for their customers. In today’s day and age, the customers have short attention spans and want to feel unique. Using customers’ preferences and past purchase patterns, travel companies can effectively customise and personalise their services, offering relevant information based on customer needs and preferences.

Travel companies are now trying to improve the customer experience wherever possible and some have also gone to the extent of monitoring heart rate from gadgets like the Apple watch to understand the emotional states of travellers. Novel initiatives like these can also help companies build product differentiation and carve out brand loyalty.

Looking through the Crystal Ball

With cutting-edge technologies like virtual reality, natural language processing and virtual assistant looming on the horizon, we are witnessing a range of innovative use cases where businesses can leverage these technologies to get customers excited about their travel offerings.

Virtual reality, for instance, can be an effective tool in creating a verifiable WYSIWYG kind of environment where customers get a tangible taste of what they can expect once they take up the travel experience. This will enable both companies and customers to sort out a range of transparency and expectation issues much before the travel even takes place.

Digital Excellence: Bursting into Our Conscience

Driving cost and business efficiencies in the travel and transportation sector is really about finding the means to serve end-customers in the best possible way. It’s about empowering travellers to cut through all the noise and stress of queues, wait times, schedule arrangements and even interacting with a redundant number of human personnel. With digital technologies, companies can now look at enabling a highly personalised experience for travellers where they handle journeys on their own to suit their travel styles and comfort zones. Needless to say, this approach has an added advantage of reducing one of the primary economic burdens on the airlines—trained manpower to help travellers perform a slew of tasks such as book tickets, check-ins etc.

 
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