By Andrew Sanders Vice President, Travel, Transportation & Hospitality
As we all struggle to cope with the COVID-19 global crisis, it’s essential for the travel and hospitality industries to continue providing an exceptional level of service to ensure that our companies retain—and ideally enhance—the loyalty of the customer bases that we’ve worked so hard to build.
Now is the time to prove our ability to maintain exemplary service to our customers during an extraordinarily difficult situation. If a brand makes cuts now that are noticeable to consumers, there’s a strong likelihood that people will attach themselves to other companies that are showing their resilience and commitment to providing the highest possible level of customer service regardless of the circumstances.
Although I believe that it’s imperative to boost the customer experience during this pandemic, I can’t stress enough that everyone’s health and well-being must be our highest priority. From our employees to our families and colleagues, we must all do our part to allow for the flexibility that’s required to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
While there are scenarios where the only sensible solution is to cancel an event, there are many instances where a creative “outside-the-box” alternative idea can replace the original plan to keep forward momentum and enhance the customer experience. I believe that we can all overcome the consequences of the current crisis by making smart decisions while focusing on our ability to share the “customer pain” to build loyalty during these tumultuous times.
Weathering the Storm
There’s no question that the COVID-19 crisis is hitting many businesses hard. The travel and hospitality industries are particularly vulnerable at a time like this, making it even more critical to enhance the customer experience to avoid a negative impact in the long term.
As we weather the storm, most businesses will have to tighten up their expenses to survive in the short term. However, any cuts that reduce the quality of your products or interfere with the customer experience are terrible choices to make during this time of crisis. While we must be fiscally responsible to avoid financial troubles, we can’t allow for the possibility that our customers will feel the cuts that we make. Any slips in service or product quality will have a devastating effect in the future, resulting in the potential for dramatic losses in customer loyalty and scars on reputations that may never fully heal.
Communicating with Customers Amidst Turmoil
What can you do to please your customers and build loyalty during this uncertain period?
Although it’s a challenging task, I believe that it is possible to optimize and reduce expenditures that won’t result in noticeable adverse effects on consumers.
Currently, my experience of interacting with airlines has been very good amidst the turmoil in the travel industry. For people who must cancel or revise a flight booking, the majority of airlines are offering credits toward another flight with no cancellation fees. However, why can’t this be completed via an intelligent chatbot rather than a phone call or some rather complex website navigation? It’s wise for the airlines to be pragmatic here. Any operator that fails to meet this level of service will be highly susceptible to losing customers in the long term, as people would gravitate toward other airlines that are enhancing their service offerings.
Airbnb, Hilton Hotels, and other major hotel chains are also stepping up their customer service to meet the significant challenges resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. By waiving the standard cancellation fees, hotel chains are able to not only please consumers who are forced to alter their travel plans due to the pandemic, but these brands are also exuding an air of confidence about their ability to handle this crisis and come out prosperous on the other side.
Although we’re in the midst of a very challenging situation, this is not the time to panic. Conversely, now is the time to showcase our ability to overcome obstacles and serve our customers at the highest possible level. The pandemic will eventually pass. The companies that make wise budget decisions and apply creative customer service offerings during this crisis will not only survive the turmoil but will also increase the loyalty and scope of their customers for the future.
Please share your thoughts about overcoming the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis with me.