Today’s travel and hospitality customer wants to go online and package their own personalised experience – and if they are not happy with the result they will tell the world via social media. Here’s how to meet their expectations.
"Tourism customers are researching, booking and paying online and communicating through smart phones, Skype, instant messaging and social media," says Gallagher hospitality expert Zoe Evans.
"Traditional services like travel agencies are being replaced by metasearch engines and online booking sites. They want to easily locate your business digitally."
That means that it needs to be accessible through mobile apps and offer the ability to instantly book and pay for a cluster of related services in a single transaction: transport, guided tours and in-house services such as getting a massage, booking a vegan meal or downloading a jogging route, for example.
According to research cited by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council in its recent submission to the Australian Government on the digital economy, the tourism sector is struggling to adapt. Less than 45% of hotels, bars and restaurants are engaging with social media users, but the party is going on without the remainder, with 71% of consumers making purchasing decisions based on social media discoveries and 53% preferring to interact with businesses on social media than by phone, Hootsuite reports.
This applies across the spectrum of tourism and hospitality offerings, from big name hotel chains to coffee bars. Businesses with high digital engagement benefit from a 20% increase in revenues, according to a 2017 Deloitte Access Economics report. Every 28 seconds an Australian hotel, bar or restaurant is tagged on Instagram – free advertising and endorsement in a single click of the cursor!
Step by steps to meeting customer expectations
Along with highly capable digital functions, you need to personalise your business and brand through imagery, real life stories, feedback and customer reviews.
- Ensure you provide fast, reliable internet connection. Your guests want access at all times.
- Ensure your booking/payment function is seamless and simple to use. It also needs to be easy to change bookings. Respond to online enquiries promptly.
- Regularly post content to your website, using video and drone photography to make it come alive.
- Use social media to tell stories about your business and invite feedback, which should be monitored to provide customer insights.
- Larger businesses should have a self-service artificial intelligence function (chatbot) on your website to streamline bookings and answer questions. Analyse what sort of information customers are seeking and adapt your website content accordingly.
- Connect automated services and systems utilising cloud-based software to integrate customer data and transactions.
- If your business is a hotel consider enabling smart phone keyless room access, but always remember personal service is an important factor.
Besides increasing business, adopting new technologies provide other positives such as streamlining processes, saving on costs/increasing profits, and most importantly giving your customers a more enjoyable experience.
Open communications and greater connectivity can have a downside too. You may need to outsource some functions and enter into partnerships to facilitate others. "Your digital operations must be supported by robust security measures to protect customers’ and your own information," Evans advises.
Gallagher’s specialists can help tourism and hospitality businesses identify their operational exposures, advise on formulating a risk management plan and structure insurance cover to safeguard your digital operations.