What is one of the most exciting growth opportunities for a business? What about your business? If you answered “customer experience”, then you probably know that companies that consistently offer best-in-class customer experience are the ones that grow faster and more profitably.
We all know that customer experience is extremely important in any business, but when it comes to the travel industry, it overlaps with its core business. Could you even imagine a travel agency promoting vacations to Madagascar without selling it as an amazing adventure into the heart of a wild, exotic fauna? In other words, without framing it as the “Madagascar experience”?
With today’s use of social media and online reviews, it only takes travelers a few clicks to spread the word about the experiences they had on their last trips or to find out true stories narrated by real travelers and not by travel agencies. They also expect brands to improve their offerings by incorporating shared feedback right away, showing that companies pay attention to their customers’ opinions.
As travelers become more connected, the following challenge grows even more stringent:
How can travel companies increase their customer engagement?
Loyalty programs are the go-to mechanism for achieving that. An Accenture study shows that 90% of companies across industries employ some sort of loyalty program. Here’s why: we all love to be rewarded! Giving customers the opportunity to earn points and redeem them on perks, leads to a stronger brand-consumer relationship, thus increasing the likelihood for recommendations and repeat purchasing.
Neuroscience research shows that whenever we are rewarded, the “engagement” neurotransmitter, called dopamine, gets released and keeps us motivated to pursue the next reward. So, for every reward that we get, our brains get flooded with dopamine, pushing us to reach for the next level. Once we get there, dopamine kicks in again,
Airline companies are good at playing this game. One recent example is Flying Blue, Air France-KLM’s loyalty program, that recently switched from a distance-based mileage earning to a revenue-based program. That allows travelers to earn miles based on how much they spend, including the cash they pay for seat options or extra luggage. All good, but among the changes brought in by the new program, it made it harder for travelers to maintain their status or reach the next level. Now, as much as we love rewards, the opposite emotion is equally strong – we hate it when the benefits we enjoyed are taken away from us. Essentially, loyalty programs are like a double-edged sword – if not managed and communicated properly, they can turn the most fervent followers into disgruntled detractors.
Brand engagement requires an emotional connection that goes beyond the transactional, daily business. A recent study conducted by Deloitte shows that when travelers are emotionally connected with the airline company, they won’t simply choose it based on the price offer, but they develop an affinity and a high level of loyalty for it.
Loyalty programs are great tools for keeping customers in the engagement loop, but they are no substitutes for a frictionless customer experience. As travelers become more empowered and demanding, requiring brands to live up to their promises, airline companies should focus on delivering an effortless experience as a means of building meaningful emotional connections with their customers.
Finally, when it comes to creating shareable customer experiences in the travel industry, the sky’s the limit. Also, add a bit of dopamine, as the secret ingredient of a long lasting customer relationship.
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