Consumers today have sky-high expectations when it comes to travel. They are seeking unique, tailored experiences that will enhance their vacations, as well as their personal lives. For example, travelers on one the nation’s top cruise lines can upload pictures of themselves and their passports to an app and then simply tap a fob to a sensor at the check-in desk to board directly onto the ship. The desire for top-of-line, superior customer experience (CX) is driving competition in the travel and tourism industries, from initial trip planning to sharing the experience after a traveler returns home.
This first in a series of blogs will explore the ways cruise lines can enhance CX to gain customers even as they begin to envision travel plans, long before they’ve stepped on the ship.
Customer Experience is the Ultimate Competitive Advantage
In the travel and hospitality industry, customers do not base their loyalty to brands and companies on amenities, features, and price, but rather on the experience they receive. Customer experience – the perception of the way a company treats individuals throughout their interactions with its products and services – is one of the most powerful tools in the marketing kit.
Today, 89% of companies compete primarily on CX. The most forward-thinking travel brands will succeed in acquiring loyal customers through a deep focus on CX. Cruise lines, in particular, have an opportunity to improve their bottom line, as great CX can entice customers to purchase luxury and indulgence services at premium prices.
Point of Views of Pre-Travel
Delivering superior CX starts in the earliest stages of travel planning. Let’s take a look at six points where a potential cruise customer can have their experience enhanced through digital innovation:
- Influencing the Guest to Travel – People looking to book a cruise today are not only looking at the amenities, features, and price but focusing on guest-centric attitudes and experiences offered. Advancements in analytics and AI are being used to better understand guests and how to engage with them.
- Researching Possibilities – There are endless possibilities when it comes to researching cruises, it can be overwhelming for potential consumers to formalize a trip. Using data gleaned from analytics and AI, cruise lines can drive personalized content and targeted offerings to potential customers, making the process of booking their dream cruise location and excursions simpler.
- Online Booking – Consumers now rely on transparent, online platforms to seamlessly book their journeys. Mobile applications, analytics, and AI are being used to enhance the online booking experience. For example, the top cruise lines use “price alerts” to notify
customers of price changes.
- Pre-Planning Activities – It can be hard for potential cruise guests to know what excursions they will enjoy the most. Virtual reality can allow guests to “experience” the trip, and amenities, like a spa package, before they book. Messaging apps and chatbots can connect potential guests with restaurants and entertainment managers on the ship to answer questions and plan activities.
- Check-in Online – Manual and inefficient check-in processes are a thing of the past. Digital technologies like IoT and mobile are expediting the check-in experience and providing guests additional functionalities to streamline and simplify their journey.
- Leaving Home – It’s almost GO time! As guests disembark for their journey, multiple stops are required (airport, shuttle, cruise ship, etc.). The ability to digitally manage all aspects of leaving home is essential. Pre-journey notifications and reminders help build strong
relationships with guests.
Bringing Technology to the Masses
Digital Innovations reshaping travel and bringing technology to the masses in order to enhance experiences. No matter what step in the travel planning process a potential customer is at, those cruise lines that can provide superior experiences that are also seamless will come out on top. Here at OZ, we use Design Thinking to help our clients in the travel and hospitality industry create cutting edge, innovative products, and services. The possibilities for innovative customer experiences are endless, really.