Skift Take

Expedia wants to help put customers in touch with hotels to sort out travel complications. That seems like it would be a complicated dance because Expedia doesn't readily share much customer information with hotels, a longtime grievance in the lodging industry.

There’s so much travel industry rhetoric about the elusive “perfect trip,” but Expedia Group is taking steps to connect the flight and hotel experience for its customers in the event of flight delays or cancellations.

Expedia Group is actively working on repurposing its Expedia Partner Central Conversations tools to enable Expedia and guests, with permission, to communicate directly with hotels if flights are delayed or plans otherwise change.

So said Arthur Chapin, Expedia Group’s senior vice president, product and technology, who was interviewed at Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco Thursday on the topic, “How a Product Mindset Changes everything.”

Expedia rolled out the chat tool in 2016 to facilitate communications, including when the guest is at the property, between Expedia and the hotel.

Chapin said Expedia has become very good at selling the various components of a trip, including flights, hotels, and car rentals, for example, but now it wants to connect all of those separate elements to improve the customer experience. He noted that travelers don’t think about travel as different products, but want seamlessness in all parts of a connected trip.

He said Expedia has mapped out of the connection points between various elements of the trip, and intends to roll out these Expedia and/or customer communications directly with the supplier if the customer gives permission.

After rolling out the airline and lodging portion of these customer communications, Chapin, an 18-year company veteran, said Expedia will quickly start rolling out other connection points, of which he said there are “tons,” to facilitate support during the full journey.

Cautious About New Types of Hotel Bookings

In other news, Chapin cautioned hotels bent on introducing attributed-based booking, where guests can reserve rooms with particular characteristics — maybe it has gym equipment or is far from the elevator — to standardize terminology or else it will be very confusing to consumers.

He noted that room definitions, such as “premiere” or “deluxe,” already vary from hotel to hotel and are often inscrutable so introducing attribute-based reservations has the potential to further confuse guests.

Chapin likened the problem to when the airlines introduced ancillary services. He said airlines loyal customers often knew what something like premium economy meant, but travelers who shopped across multiple airlines often couldn’t fathom the product differences.

For years, travel executives have talked about personalization, including wondering why an online travel agent couldn’t rebook a connecting flight while the passenger was still flying or inform the hotel about a late arrival.

Expedia vows to go even one step further: Enable airline customers to communicate directly with the hotel to sort out travel complications.

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Tags: chatbots, customer service, expedia, flights, hotels, online travel, otas, stf2019

Photo credit: Expedia Group senior vice president, product and technology Arthur Chapin (left) was interviewed by Skift Airline Weekly Editor Madhu Unnikrishnan at Skift Tech Forum June 27, 2019 in San Francisco. Skift

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