Now Boarding: Mobile Transforms The Travel Industry

Rob Heuser

There was a time when anyone making a purchase or working with customers needed to engage face-to-face, usually in a retail environment, or over the phone.

Times have changed. As mobile transforms the travel industry, it’s also altering the customer experience.

Now boarding: Group CX

When it comes to booking travel, one of the most difficult aspects has historically been comparing and purchasing airline tickets, followed closely by hotel reservations and car rentals. In times past, if you didn’t have a travel agent, you’d need to spend time looking through airline-provided printed schedules.

No big deal? Check out this image of a United Airlines schedule from 1931 – note the number of stops needed to travel from New York to San Francisco. Now imagine five connecting flights!

Even if you managed to purchase tickets via the phone, you’d then need to figure out how to get your printed tickets, which needed to be picked up at the airport or travel office well in advance of the flight.

Mobile technology’s impact on travel has been enormous. As a frequent global traveler, I sometimes find myself in awe of the mobile travel ecosystem, all of which is managed through a small device carried in my pocket. All of the research that guides purchasing decisions can be done right from my mobile phone.

Let’s go a step further and discuss mobile’s impact on the journey, beyond travel arrangements.

Remember when everyone took pictures with a dedicated camera? Now you don’t need an expensive camera with multiple lenses—the same device that helped you plan and purchase your trip captures your memories as well. And the quality is incredible!

Unlocking the doors of innovation: Mobile transforms the travel industry

For travel providers, the impact of mobile technology isn’t as obvious, but its result is arguably equally powerful. Many costly elements of the customer engagement process have been simplified and optimized thanks to mobile.

Here are a few examples of how mobile is transforming CX in the travel industry:

Door keys: Some hotels and vehicle rental companies now offer keyless entry via a preregistered and authenticated mobile device.

Advance check-in services: Providing a better dashboard into hotel inventory as well as peace of mind, advance check-in assures stressed travelers comfortable accommodations.

Customer Service: Vendors can provide near real-time personalized responses to customer issues and concerns via multiple mobile channels, including SMS, social media, and voice.

Loyalty: It’s never been easier to earn points for loyalty travelers, thanks to simplified apps for hotel chains, airlines, etc.

Internally: Property managers can use mobile technology to locate and communicate with employees, tying customer issues with support personnel who can resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

Engaging consumers post-journey

Customer engagement doesn’t end when the traveler’s journey ends. Travel organizations and providers continue to engage the consumer, sending offers and promotions directly to mobile, perhaps using it to sell last-minute inventory that might otherwise go unsold.

According to Ovum, more than 70% of consumers plan to use SMS “the same or more often than they do now,” suggesting that enterprises should do more SMS with customers.

At Mobile World Congress last year, we asked enterprises: “What channels are you considering or using when engaging with your customer?” Overwhelmingly, they indicated SMS is incredibly popular with consumers.

We all realize and accept the influence and impact of mobile – and intelligent, interconnected engagements – on our lives. It is the foundation of the digital economy. When discussing the digital economy, it’s impossible not to have mobile technology (“mobile”) at the center of the conversation.

As you create your mobile engagement strategy, ask these three questions:

  1. Are you creating intelligent and engaging conversations?
  2. Is mobile ambient data part of your insight strategy?
  3. Are you present wherever your customers are in the physical world?

Delivering the right message at the right time is the key to mobile success. Random, uncoordinated tactics with generic content are no longer effective.

Before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip, mobile can influence the entire digital journey and each touch point of the connected traveler.

According to IDC, looking forward, mobile will continue to accelerate. Expectations are that 75% of business travelers will use a digital assistant in 2019. Services such as Slack’s Concur Travel bot and Hello Hipmunk are taking the mobile engagement one step further, allowing travelers to purchase travel services, at any time and anywhere.

Make sure you’re there to greet your customer.

Are you doing enough to engage your travel customer? See how you can utilize mobile to drive better relationships and improve satisfaction in this market report. 

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.


Rob Heuser

About Rob Heuser

Rob brings more than 20 years of mobile messaging and telecommunications insights and experiences from a variety of sales and product management roles. Currently, he leads a team in SAP Digital Interconnect's North America sales organization, creating and delivering winning mobile customer engagements to enterprise customers in the travel, banking, logistics, retail and social media industry segments. Follow him on Twitter (@robheuser_sap) or drop him an e-mail at robert.heuser@sap.com.