Travel Agents

The new & improved ‘travel agent’

Steven Fitzjohn

Steven Fitzjohn

In this guest post, Senior Vice President APAC at LivePerson, Steven Fitzjohn, shares his hot tips on how brands can leverage off messaging in the travel industry, offering a ‘personal travel agent’ for customers.

The rapid adoption of technology has completely transformed the travel industry in recent years as consumers now book, research and interact with travel brands in new and innovative ways.

While the core essence of travel will always remain a tangible or physical experience, there are untapped opportunities for integrating technology to enrich the consumer experience.

How? By allowing consumers to access information on-demand, engage with brands when it suits them, and have their very own travel agent at their fingertips.

The future lies in smartphones

Smartphones are driving this opportunity for travel brands to enhance their lines of communication and interact with consumers instantly and on demand.

With Australian smartphone penetration levels hovering above the 80 per cent mark, customers expect brands to be present not only on their channels of choice but more so on mobile devices.

In fact, more than half of Australian consumers would like the option to communicate with customer service using a messaging app, instead of having to call, according to a survey conducted by LivePerson.

The popularity of messaging among consumers is undeniable, with both Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp exceeding the one billion user. Consumers are making it clear how they prefer to communicate with each other and, increasingly, brands.

Think of an airline passenger. Before departure they can now subscribe to live flight updates where they receive texts in real-time regarding changes to flight times. They are now downloading the airline’s app to follow the flight path, and book transport and accommodation at the other end – all through their smartphone.

But even with all this information literally at their fingertips, consumers still want the option to speak with staff and get their questions answered, when it suits them. Consumers want to speak with brands the way they speak to their friends.

And that communication is increasingly happening via messaging. They want to be able to message a brand and continue the conversation on their own time, rather than waiting on hold with a travel agent or airline.

The human touch benefit

With messaging, consumers can skip the hassle of calling and instantly access assistance in obtaining flight details, changing an existing reservation or adjusting their itinerary, any time, from anywhere.

No more waiting, no more stress. Travel brands are simplifying the communication channels by utilising in-app messaging with the one piece of technology which is always in their pocket – the smartphone.

Not only does this streamline the engagement process but it helps brands stand out from their competitors by offering travellers the option to communicate on their terms.

By following these three tips travel brands can benefit in the age of messaging:

1. Embrace the smartphone age

There’s no denying smartphones are the guaranteed way to reach your audience. Travel brands are in a unique position to use this trend to their advantage.

A typical traveller is always on their smartphone, during transit, sightseeing and now even inflight. Consumers are still looking for that personalised interaction and messaging simplifies the communications channels, eliminating the stress and hassle of calling. Imagine a passenger learns mid-flight their connection has been cancelled.

Instead of stressing over having to wait until they land they can simply send a message to clarify what is going on, so simple and all via the smartphone.

2. Embrace the human travel agent

Travel brands are used to giving consumers a head-start in their search for better travel deals. But all this leads to a challenge that is very prevalent in our time – information overload. And alert fatigue comes riding back to town.

Messaging enables brands to break through this overload to humanise, simplify and customise each consumer interaction to ensure their specific needs are met and every issue just isn’t dealt with but solved.

3. Stand out from the clutter

An on-demand travel agent ensures the continued engagement with consumers. Messaging platforms help travel brands stand out from the crowd as they not only operate on the consumer’s terms, but it allows brands to collect data to facilitate better decision making rather than adding to the information chaos.

It builds a sentiment analysis that evaluates message transcripts and predictive analytics, ensuring brands can effectively respond to and resolve enquiries and complaints.

Think about this, maybe your next potential flyer is keen on that business class seat and all it would need for him to take the bait is a slight nudge or a personal discount. So, move those moments onto messaging and keep your channels of engagement open for when it best suits your customer to reach out to you, on their own terms.

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