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Seamless Cross Channel Experience Still Miles Away for Major Travel Planning Portals #Mystruggles


shivani sharma - December 7, 2018 - 0 comments

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Since last few weeks, I had been contemplating a lot about which travel destination to choose for our yearly family vacation.

Planning family vacations is bit of a time-and-effort-consuming task for me, considering my extra mindfulness about factors such as – price comparisons, weather assessment (after we survived Andaman cyclone Vardah in 2016), region’s political situations, among others.

My comprehensive spreadsheets are a testimony to our relentless efforts in achieving a dream vacation.

This time around, I realized that, sadly, even the top fancy travel portals need to be more:

✅ Service design + Sales & marketing driven

❌ And NOT just sales & marketing focused

After deciding the travel destination, I began to look out for appropriate flights and hotel options. Trust me, it had been an eye opening experience about how a top travel portal, has such an ignorant service design and omnichannel experience.

Here’s the simple scenario: Since there was no option to combine my choice of flights and hotels, so I called the customer service department of this major travel portal.

Following are the three key points from the experience I had with their customer support call:

Multichannel silos:

The hotel inventory on their website cannot be booked offline as a package and the representative asked me to call another department.

Now that’s what we call different channels working in silos! As a customer I don’t expect from the service provider to lock customer data into channel-specific touchpoint mirroring their digital presence.

Today, having multiple touchpoints is the new normal and customers expect their journey between each touchpoint to be seamless and robust across channels. Simple as that – What customers really appreciate is – fully integrated channels that render a channel-less experience.

Culture challenge:

The price that offline customer service representative told me was approx. 30% more than what was quoted on their website. He justified the price difference by blatantly misleading me with a lame reasoning – that online booking inventory is NOT real time, thus not reliable. He did not stop there and warned me that hotel might deny my prepaid online booking upon arrival.

Here the offline sales guy tried to persuade me to buy the deal even on the higher price without caring about what I really needed, which was ultimately detrimental to the customer experience. This is the biggest culture barrier for any organization that works with multichannel offerings. eCommerce in India is extremely competitive and discount driven.

Hence, an offline team sees digital business as their competition and ends up cannibalising online sales.

Lack of seamless experience:

Starting from IVR to live customer support, the tone, selection of words, and spirit of serving the customer was nowhere close to a good service design a travel company must have while interacting with customers. It feels like talking to two different people. Their website translates their values nicely while offline customer support was just sales goals driven.

Today, 1.5 billion consumers have Apple and Android devices.

Their new capabilities, like Apple Continuity and Google Now (which preserve context and blend experiences across devices and channels), dramatically raise the familiar bar for digital customer experience. I see engaging with a travel service provider as an extremely personal experience where I am opening about my travel interests based on my needs.

A humanly but mechanical tone asking for my name and number everytime I connect with them simply ruins it. Honestly, two different styles of communication on website and customer support is no less than having multiple personality disorder for a brand.

All the above points are not even targeting personalization or using emerging technologies to provide better experience. This is 101 of an effective service design. Travel planning is not just about making your customers travel from point A to B. It’s all about helping them create moments which they will cherish for your life.

It’s sad to see how all major travel portals are still just driven by competitive pricing, packages, deals, and discounts.

Travel planning journey for their customers should be designed like giving them a personalized experience of a spot-less white glove hospitality service, and just not a mechanical and transactional event with search, select, and pay process.

Geb and Nut