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This post is part of a series created collaboratively by Skift and Checkmate on the future of messaging in the travel industry. Read the first post here: How the Post-App Economy is Changing the Way Travel Brands Engage with Customers.
Service interactions between travel brands and customers must evolve to keep up with the changing nature of communication and service. While the brand wants speak with one voice, challenges circulating information across the operation force each employee to start from scratch in every customer interaction. For consumers, the experience of being transferred between departments and forced to make the same request to multiple employees is dehumanizing. For too long, the industry’s customer service reps have sounded like automated robots, armed with pre-scripted answers that lack the empathy or subtlety of a human touch.
This interaction model is especially problematic given the value today’s travelers place on authenticity and individual recognition. Fortunately, messaging services (described in our first piece on the Post-App Economy) provide travel companies with the tools to deliver authentic, personal interactions at scale.
What values resonate with today’s consumer?
As consumer preferences have evolved, service brands increasingly need to connect with customers based on their values. Among iconic service brands, authenticity and one-to-one recognition stand out as the leading brand attributes.
From hotels designed to integrate with their location to locally-sourced farm-to-table restaurants, “authenticity” has emerged as a north star for today’s traveler. To quote travel writer David Sze, “For the 21st century traveler, authenticity has become the goal and measure of travel.” Legacy hotel brands use locally-based culinary experiences to signal their commitment to authenticity. Accor announced a local F&B initiative in October 2015, and local wines are a tenant of the Sheraton rebrand. All this speaks to travel brands recognition of a traveler’s broad desire for authentic, first-hand experiences.
But while travel brands seek to create this feeling of “realness”, convincing the consumer of a brand’s authenticity requires more than just new sourcing. Like Justice Potter Stewart’s observation on pornography (“I know it when I see it”), authenticity is hard to define but impossible to fake. And as more hospitality brands clamor to claim this mantle, it becomes harder to cut through the noise and genuinely connect with guests. Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall argues that the brand’s experience is built on diverse local practices generated by millions of hosts. How then can legacy brands built on standardized practices tap into the vitality of local operations and teams?
Being remembered, being greeted by name, being known as a unique individual are all impactful moments in which brands cement their relationship with the traveler. And while personal interactions have always been a hallmark of great service, consumers now see these interactions as a critical cornerstone of memorable brands. At the Luxury Interactive Summit last October, Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, said, “As consumers are more sophisticated and products become more commoditized, it’s the delivery of an experience across channels and a personal relationship that differentiates brands.” Brands that recognize and communicate with their customers as unique individuals will stand out.
How do these consumer values connect with Post-App Economy?
As described in “Welcome to the Post-App Economy”, consumers increasingly expect to interact with businesses through messaging platforms, and commercial messaging volume is growing quickly. However, messaging is more than just another communication channel. Messaging interactions enable a qualitatively different customer experience that speaks to consumers’ desire for authentic, one-to-one relationships, as the following three benefits make clear:
- Create intelligence across a brand. In the analog world of voice or face-to-face interaction, sharing information with teams or across departments is difficult, especially in a shift-based organization. Poor information exchange forces consumers to repeat themselves, which leaves the consumer feeling devalued and anonymous. By contrast, messages create a communication trail with each customer visible to every employee. Armed with interaction history, employees never start a conversation from zero; instead, they pick up right where their colleagues left off.
- Treat consumers as unique individuals. When customer-facing employees are equipped with the history of a given customer, they can treat the person as a unique individual. They can greet a customer by name. They can refer to experiences that have happened in the past. They don’t repeat the same questions that other employees have already asked, and they don’t require the customer to rebuild every interaction from scratch. By demonstrating that the customer is known, brands build one-to-one relationships and create long-term loyalty.
- Enable human interactions and authentic connections with employees. In their personal lives, consumers have learned how to use social media to communicate their identity with a well-chosen profile picture or a few choice words in a bio. Facebook and Linkedin allow someone to be “known” without ever meeting. Messaging platforms provide a canvas where employees and brands can express their identity. And knowing the individuals behind a travel brand is a far more powerful way to build an authentic relationship with customers than just changing wine sourcing or lobby decor.
In summary, messaging platforms enable service brands to deliver unique experiences at scale that resonate with today’s consumer. To see how consumers are using messaging in practice, download this study of consumer messaging behavior or contact CheckMate for a consultation.
This content was created collaboratively with our partner, CheckMate.