Say you’re running an airport with different business lines. Someone’s running retail, someone else is running parking, someone else is running airline partnerships, and so on—those are very separate things, and the impetus is on the passenger to orchestrate the experience.
If you instead center the airport around the guest experience, it would look a lot different.
Imagine driving up to the parking garage and, through automatic plate number recognition, security knows that you have arrived. You get a notification on your phone that you have an appointment to go through security at a specific time to avoid the queue. You leave your keys with the valet because you requested dry cleaning and grocery shopping when you booked your trip, and you want those things left in your car when you return.
The restaurant knows you are on your way, sends the menu to your phone so that you can order on the fly and puts the order through the kitchen when they know you are passing through security.
On the way home, you are in the air and remember you need to buy a present for your kids. You decide to ‘shop the airport,’ and those gifts are waiting for you when you land.
This is easy to dream about and incredibly difficult to execute. But through partnerships, travel companies can do things very differently, creating more value for customers and for their own business.
How could a travel brand bring an experience like that to life?
Bringing this to life requires heavy use of technology, of course. Cloud, data and open APIs are a given, but in the future, we'll see the use of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, virtual reality and web3 technology enabling these partnerships and powering experiences.
For example, if you’ve ever had a bad experience when you’re on vacation and you’re trying to reach someone, you know how frustrating customer service can be.
But imagine if you could use conversational AI to personalize the experience . It’s that integration of the experience, the data and the technology that makes it work right. That’s where the magic happens.
We’ve talked a lot about these big pillars—data, content, technology. If you had to outline some key steps to improve the guest experience, what might those steps be to get companies started?
You need to understand your customers and know when things are breaking down in the experience. That’s just a given, but it’s amazing how many companies don’t really scrutinize what the data is telling them.
I’ll give you an example. We started looking at the data of a quick-service restaurant chain to understand why people were dropping out of the mobile order flow at a particular point. We realized that there was a problem for Android users but not with iPhone users. When we put a monetary value to how much money was being left on the table, we realized there was a significant problem to be solved.
It’s about getting into the data and looking at it in the context of the customer journey, and it’s an underused method today. Taking it a step further, brands can not only dig into their data but start by reimagining what entire travel experiences could look like.
This requires not just incremental change but recreating experiences from the ground up. For example, imagine rethinking what an airport looks like to create less friction for the customer.
What if guests could walk from the beach onto the plane? Or if baggage claims never existed? Brands need to ideate around what a future experience could be without getting stuck in what there is today because it is too limiting.
To start, look at experiences in other industries for inspiration and a new perspective. For example, hotel brands can look at the public sector. Rather than hotels being places that people from out of town go and stay in, they can become a hub and a source of value for their local community.
Now that we’ve talked about challenges, opportunities and ways to make change happen, what could be some of the main benefits that travel and hospitality companies can see by making the guest experience their priority?
Well, the first one is customer advocacy and loyalty. Disney is still an expert in customer experience, and their first-time customers come back 70% of the time. This is because Disney pays so much attention to the experience. Companies get loyalty when they invest in the customer experience.
I think the first thing is you need to understand your customers and know when things are breaking down in the experience.
— Nick Shay, Group Vice President, Travel & Hospitality, International Markets
To become a true expert in the customer experience, you must keep innovating. There isn’t a time where you can just stand still and say you’re all good. If you look at what’s happening in the travel and hospitality space, there’s so much innovation now. And when it comes to the experience, you need to be constantly looking at what’s next.
Publicis Sapient can help your brand reimagine the guest experience.