AI-Driven Customer Experience in Tourism
The tourism industry has gone through massive changes in the past few years, as the pandemic accelerated old trends and created new ones. Customers increasingly have higher expectations around health and safety, the quality of digital experiences and the personalization travel companies offer. In this world, companies must support travelers’ needs through updated strategies and technology.
Polomi Batra, director of product marketing at Zendesk, and Nazli Camlibel, senior product marketing manager at Zendesk, talked to CMSWire about the challenge of meeting customer experience (CX) expectations in the tourism, hospitality and travel industries. They also explored the artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that support CX interactions to meet modern needs.
CX Challenges in Tourism
The tourism industry has a few unique differentiators that make it more vulnerable to certain CX challenges than other industries. Travelers’ issues are often time sensitive, Batra said. These include challenges such as flight delays, booking errors and last-minute changes to events or reservations.
There may also be many moving parts to a traveler’s plan, and issues with one part could have a domino effect across others. A personal itinerary could include flight plans, lodging plans, activity plans and more, all of which must line up together to make a frictionless travel experience, Batra said. Many people book these different parts of the experience on different booking sites, which only adds to the complexity.
The pandemic accelerated certain challenges, as well. Health and safety concerns with travel have risen since the pandemic, Batra said. The use of digital channels for all industries also exploded, and now travelers expect companies to run a tight ship when it comes to their digital capabilities. With this also comes the reality that people expect personalized digital experiences that cater to their unique interests in traveling. Meeting these rising customer expectations requires that companies adopt the right tools in their technology stack — or else travelers will take their business somewhere else.
Improving the Customer Experience for Travelers
Customers want a frictionless experience when they plan a trip. If their booking experience is not seamless enough on one site, they’ll simply move on to a different site or app, Batra said. Across channels, travel-related companies can meet these expectations by offering simple, frictionless experiences like the ability to quickly check in through a mobile app or the ability to book a flight or room in a few clicks on their phone.
“Customers who are traveling also like personalization,” Batra added. “As a company, if you know what type of flights they usually like, what types of places they like to travel to and what types of activities they like to do, you [can] give recommendations based on those data points.”
One more vital way to improve CX for travelers is by perfecting the loyalty program. “This industry specifically has a lot of loyalty programs for their customers. So, on top of escalations and complicated itineraries, [travel companies] also need to segment how they serve their customers based on those loyalty programs,” Camlibel said. If a customer feels well taken care of with a company, they’ll continue to bring back their business and share their positive experience with others.
AI’s Role in Better Tourism CX
Achieving frictionless CX and personalized experiences that produce customer loyalty requires that agents have the right tools, context and insights readily available. That’s why artificial intelligence is a key part of the technology stack of any tourism-related company.
AI can help improve personalization efforts by exploring vast amounts of data points and creating individualized recommendations for each traveler, Batra said. “In this industry, a lot of things could be happening: natural disasters, flight cancellations, hotel rooms not up to expectations. And [customers] need help right away,” Batra said. “That’s where always-on, personalized support can be very useful.”
AI can also help make a 24/7 customer support bot as efficient as possible — a vital benefit in an industry where customers need help at all hours of the day.
Zendesk takes AI-powered bots a step further by feeding it industry-specific information for the tourism, hospitality and travel industries. This helps the bot respond to the customer as accurately as possible based on the factors that make the industry unique.
Finally, AI can be used to help determine customer intent and help prevent potentially negative interactions from escalating, Batra said. An interaction with a traveler may escalate quickly if they have an immediate problem and need to resolve it as soon as possible. In emergencies like this, a company must be able to recognize the seriousness of the problem and respond immediately.
For example, this may mean flagging the interaction as something that requires the human touch and ensuring that the customer talks to a human agent right away. AI can also make sure to route the customer to an agent who is knowledgeable in the specific request type, meaning that the agent is best set up for success with the frustrated customer.
Adopt a Tourism-Informed AI Solution Today
Zendesk is focused on delivering AI specifically for CX, Batra said. By focusing their expertise, they’re able to get the best possible answers from their model. “These challenges are specific to the CX world. Your AI will work better if you have a more refined model on what you’re trying to get answers to,” Batra said.
Combined with the fact that Zendesk bots are fed with CX data from specific industries, this means that hospitality companies who use this tool will getanswers specifically tailored to both their field and their industry. This gives agents the greatest opportunity to engage customers and manage interactions efficiently. Learn more about Zendesk’s solution in the link below.