After withstanding disruptive business models introduced by Airbnb, Priceline and many others, the travel & hospitality industry rebounded only to be shocked again by this year’s pandemic. The industry potentially faces a long recovery, as McKinsey estimates that it will take until 2023 for the hotel industry to return to pre-pandemic occupancy rates.
Encouraging short term signs of a recovery for the travel and hospitality industry are tempered somewhat by year-over-year comparisons indicating that a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels may be a slow climb. According to the TSA throughput report, TSA screenings reached a pandemic peak of 863,000 daily airline travelers on August 16, capping four straight weeks of an increase. But a seven-day average of 718,000 travelers (through August 18) was 71 percent lower than in the same period for 2019.
Likewise, the U.S. hotel occupancy rate is climbing, although it is still significantly lower than 2019 levels. According to a Statista accommodation report, hotel occupancy rate was 50.2 percent for the week ending Aug. 15. This was a 3 percent increase over July, but represented a 30 percent year-over-year decrease. There were also significant year-over-year decreases in average daily rate (23 percent drop) and revenue per available room (46 percent).
Demand will eventually return, but how will consumer expectations change? Certainly, consumers will now expect their basic health and safety needs to be met in improved ways. But those measure will be viewed as table stakes a year from now, so how can brands create the types of customer experiences that stand out – a connected customer experience (CX) that captures more than their fair share of the market.
A Superior CX as the New Normal in Travel & Hospitality Experience
A slow return to customary travel patterns will likely mean fierce industry competition. Particularly with excess capacity and thin margins, the best way to gain an advantage is to provide a superior CX. Consumer expectations are rising as they see improvements in other industries – from telehealth to buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS). Travel has the opportunity to create new connected experiences across pre-visit, visit and post-visit journeys, experiences that are highly personalized to the moment – in real time – and frictionless.
Contactless hotel check-ins and other digital amenities known as “touchless tech” already exist, but digital transformation has just been accelerated by a matter of years. A truly differentiated experience will require that new connected experiences be customized to each customer’s preferences, based on their unique profile and journey with a brand.
Truly Differentiate by Knowing Everything About a Guest
Effective touchless tech that personalizes a digital experience with relevance in the context of each interaction will not only be welcomed for the enhanced safety and convenience, it will also drive new revenue because it aligns with the type of seamless, digital CX that today’s always-on, connected consumers demand. In a 2019 Harris Poll commissioned by Redpoint, for example, 63 percent of consumers surveyed said that personalization is a standard service they expect – and 37 percent said they will flat out not do business with a company that fails to offer a personalized experience.
How, then, would a touchless experience in travel and hospitality satisfy this expectation beyond soon-to-be standard digital amenities? Some hotels, for example, are currently offering a completely digital experience where a guest is able to use a mobile app to pre-select a room, check in and out, control temperature, order room service, request extra in-room amenities and even use as a remote control for in-room entertainment.
An even more personalized experience could include geo-fencing technology to alert the hotel when a guest is en route and preparing the room to the guest’s specific preferences for room temperature, number of towels or favorite thread count. Or sending an SMS to let the guest know the best available parking spot closest to the room. The hotel could also send push notifications letting a guest know available reservation times at a favorite local restaurant.
The crux of providing a seamless CX is recognizing a customer across all channels and devices, and knowing everything there is to know about the customer to enable a brand to either respond or proactively engage in real time. Using geo-location technology, for example, shows why a real-time capability is so important; a brand must be able to engage in the context of a unique customer journey.
Integration, too, is vital, which speaks to knowing everything there is to know about a customer across channels. If a guest using the app calls the front desk, a desk clerk with immediate access to all data will likely avoid introducing friction into the guest experience – and will be far more prepared to interact with relevance.
A Single Customer View & Real-Time Decisioning
Providing a relevant, personalized omnichannel experience that drives revenue requires breaking down all data siloes. A brand must have a single customer view that unifies customer data from every source and of every type. One differentiator of the Redpoint Golden Record™ is that the single customer view is updated in real time; there is no latency between when data is collected and when it is used to orchestrate a next-best action that is always in sync with a customer’s journey.
This real-time decisioning engine is the heart of rgOne, the Redpoint digital experience platform with built-in automated machine learning that allows brands to personalize customer experiences at scale. Providing a single point of control over data, decisions and interactions, the platform intelligently orchestrates a next-best action for an individual customer journey. Every decision is optimized to positively influence a journey the moment it is rendered, calculating every interaction, transaction, behavior and preference that preceded it. Advanced identity resolution enables a brand to recognize a customer across every device and ID, ensuring that a seamless, personalized experience is consistent across all channels and devices.
A Single Point of Control in Action
Xanterra Travel Collection, which owns or manages 34 hotels (5,600 rooms) among a diversified portfolio of destination experiences across the world, uses rgOne to consolidate customer data from more than 100 data sources. With the Redpoint Golden Record, Xanterra creates a consistent guest experience for its more than 25 million annual customers, managing and automating onboarding, nurturing and conversions through managing an entire experience (pre-arrival, during and after each visit).
Andrew Heltzel, Director of Marketing & CRM at Xanterra Travel Collection, attributes rgOne with helping the company deliver a uniquely consistent experience across multiple brands. The timing and cadence, he said, are “lined up perfectly to not overlap or be in conflict with each other,” despite orchestrating millions of customer journeys annually, and even with many guests on multiple journeys at the same time with different brands.
“Having that comprehensive view and putting that optimized campaign or journey in place has really significantly helped deliver a better guest experience,” Heltzel said.