As a short-term ‘feeding frenzy’ for bookings looks set to start, Tony Wheble, chief executive and chairman of review and customer insights platform Feefo, explains why tapping into customer insights is critical to restoring trust in travel for the long haul
When the Health Secretary tells the world he booked his summer break to Cornwall months ago, just 24 hours after the Transport Secretary had told Britons that it is too early to book holidays, you can perhaps understand why consumers are confused.
Holidays represent one of the most significant purchases most consumers make in a year.
And so, they need confidence and reassurance that their hard-earned cash, and the well-being of their family, is protected.
And right now, trust has never been more important in travel.
The uncertainty created by the crisis has damaged confidence across the sector, with many consumers growing wary of cancellations and travel providers being unable to pay refunds, as well as questioning the ability of providers to make their transport and venues coronavirus-safe.
And whilst post-pandemic, we would hope that all travel companies will see a bounce in bookings, those that benefit the most, and long into the future, will be the ones that are able to restore and retain trust the quickest.
Travel companies are in desperate need of a boost and travel marketers across the country will be licking their lips at the prospect of ramping up their SEO and PPC activity, to generate as many sales as humanly possible.
But this short-term feeding frenzy must be done with trust top of mind.
One key to building trust is to analyse what your customers are saying. What are the things you are seeing come up over and again?
What can you learn from consumers’ review feedback on their experiences of the sector last time restrictions were lifted?
Perhaps surprisingly, we have seen that the average travel review in 2020 was 34% more detailed than the average review collected. Customers had more to say, and they took the time to say it.
By taking the time to understand the underlying trends, you are one step closer to identifying what your customers really care about and taking action to address their concerns.
Tools which enable performance profiling, the discovery of themes in feedback and targeted surveys are critical. By understanding sentiment and actionable insights you can inform better business decisions.
This should inform the kind of messaging you use to greet website visitors, for example, making any guarantees you can give around refunds or the coronavirus safety measures you have put in place really prominent in the user journey.
And it should also help you better judge the tone of your outbound communications.
The lesson from Ryanair’s much criticised ‘jab and go’ ad, was that trivialising the current situation is unlikely to land well with consumers or regulators.
One thing to consider in our outbound communications is that consumers want to be more informed. Proactively sharing your expertise will build confidence in your ability to handle their custom.
It is also critical to engage with negative reviews with your customer service team aiming to turn a negative review into a positive.
Prospective customers looking at reviews need to see that when a customer buys from you, you can be trusted to get it right almost 100% of the time, helping differentiate you from other providers.
Setting up alerts for when a negative review is received will allow you to either hold your hands up and correct a mistake or have your say if the review is unfair or inaccurate.
Putting in place an internal process to ensure that the most important queries are dealt with soonest also helps to instil trust; in our experience customers are not looking for an instant solution, they just don’t want to be ignored.
The cumulative effect is to show your company to be trustworthy to new customers, whilst building trust and loyalty with existing, and hopefully repeat, customers.
By being proactive and sensitive in responding to customers, when many are used to travel companies struggling to respond in a timely manner, you again set yourself apart from the market.
Building trust will help your company benefit from the post-pandemic bounce, but also ensure you have customers coming back again long into the future.