Why trust is more important than ever for the travel industry
2020 was more than a little tricky for the travel industry. Lockdowns, travel bans and increasingly wary holidaymakers meant uncertainty lurked around every corner. 2021 offers a light at the end of the tunnel, with brands that have managed to maintain their integrity and trust with travellers coming to the fore.
Almost half of travellers expect to feel ready to fly again within the next six months, but who they choose to spend their hard-earned cash with is a different story. Which? found that the after the first lockdown, just one in five people trusted airlines and holiday operators, as confusion over refunds, cancellations and long customer service wait times became the norm.
With 81% of consumers saying that trust is a deal breaker or deciding factor in their buying decision, it’s crucial that the industry finds a way to preserve customer confidence. So, what can you do to help reassure holidaymakers that your brand can be relied upon to deliver a safe and secure experience?
Safety is the number one concern
85% of travellers said where and how they travel will hinge on communications they receive from hotels and airlines about safety.
With safety becoming the number one concern in a world with COVID, make sure you’re using every touchpoint with you customers to help reassure them that you’re doing all you can to provide a safe environment for them to travel. Communication is going to be key. Showing that you are putting people before profit will go a long way towards gaining the confidence of safety-conscious travellers looking for a brand they can trust.
Don’t forget, everybody is different. So, find a way to listen and understand the issues each of your customers have. That way, you can start to tailor your messaging and offer packages that resonate with people, no matter their safety concerns.
What can you do?
- Judge the tone of the market and make traveller safety the cornerstone of your 2021 messaging.
- Take on board what your customers are telling you and design an experience based around their needs.
Your existing customers are looking to you for reassurance
One in three consumers will leave a brand they adore if they go through one bad customer experience (PwC).
With so many travellers feeling shortchanged by the way the industry handled the first lockdown, now’s the time to double down on your promise to deliver exceptional customer service moving forward.
Holidaymakers need to feel safe in the knowledge that no matter what 2021 has in store, you’re going to clearly communicate throughout the process, have a customer service team on hand to deal with any unforeseen issues and more than anything, have their best interests at heart.
Don’t rely on your current customers to “have your back” either. Just like all of us, they’ve changed, whether that’s their needs, their expectations, or even their financial situation. The last thing you want right now is to lose any of them because they don’t trust you to keep up your level of service.
What can you do?
- Listen to your customers, and take note of their concerns. Having your finger on the pulse when it comes to how your customers are feeling will demonstrate that they’re valued and you’re willing to adapt.
- Make sure that you’re clearly communicating at every stage of the journey, even if things aren’t going well. Customers appreciate honesty over everything, so even if there are issues, let them know.
Sustainability is still high on the agenda
69% of travellers believe sustainable travel is important in 2020, proving the ethical decisions travel brands make will still play a major role in how they’re perceived going forward.
So, fail to respond the right way in a sensitive situation or run an ill-thought-out marketing campaign, and their trust in your business will diminish and you may lose their custom forever.
After a brand displays unethical behaviour or suffers a controversy, 45% of consumers said the brand would never be able to regain their trust, and 40% said they would stop buying from that brand altogether (Edelman).
What can you do?
- Be careful not to exploit the situation. Use difficult trading periods to hammer home what your business stands for, rather than push for hard sales.
- Show by your actions, rather than tell. Sometimes it’s better if you let your customers do this for you. Using user-generated content is a much gentler marketing approach, reinforcing your own message and stance through the voice of real customers.
There’s little doubt that the industry is going to need to work hard to earn back the trust of travellers. A customer-first approach is sure to get 2021 off to a good start, putting the focus on safe and sustainable travel. It’s going to be a tough road back, but not an impossible one. Communicating, listening and engaging with your customers holds the key to understanding what travellers want and placing them at the heart of the experience you offer.
ABTA’s Redefining Customer Service in Travel Conference will be held virtually on 10 February. Attend thought provoking conference sessions and take part in practical training on subjects including complaints handling and PTRs. Hear more from Feefo and listen to other speakers from companies including easyJet holidays, Virgin Atlantic Holidays, Le Boat, Intrepid Group, The Institute for Customer Service, Ocky White Travel, Travlaw, Hill Dickinson, ABTA, and ITC Travel Group. To see the full agenda and to book your place click here.