The Changing Face (Or Screen) Of Customer Experience

The importance of the mobile experience in travel marketing can’t be understated. As I’ve written about before, the inspiration to travel (and the need to book it!) strikes at all times of day, in all environments – and with our mobile devices always on, always nearby, and constantly in use (the average person checks their phone 150 times a day), inspiration usually starts becoming action via the mobile channel. 

This recent article in Mobile Commerce Press (highlighting a study by Magnani Caruso Dutton) further illustrates the need for a strong mobile experience. Some of the most interesting points from article: 

  • 72% of business travelers, 64% of leisure travelers, and 74% of family travelers state that the quality of a hotel’s “website, mobile app, or other digital tools” has a moderate or strong impact on booking.
  • 74% would like hotels to provide “’substantial’ digital involvement” for a better experience.
  • 78% would like to use local maps when planning and visiting.
  • 73% would like to check in via their mobile devices when they arrive. 

Those are pretty strong numbers – and they point to a significant change the hospitality industry is facing: Most travelers want to walk into a hotel, check in as they enter via mobile device, and go straight to their room – then presumably check out the same way when they leave. As a result, the opportunity to provide a person-to-person customer experience diminishes dramatically – even the perfunctory welcome at the check-in counter – putting even more onus on the digital channel to provide the customer experience travelers expect. 

This is one of the main reasons Airbnb has become as successful as it is – and why many hoteliers are wrong to underestimate them. Their digital experience is exceptional, from the site (regardless of accessing via mobile or desktop) to their email program to their SMS and Push messaging. Very few hotel chains can match it today. 

Meeting the needs of guests who prefer a mobile experience over a personal one isn’t easy – in fact, it can be expensive and time consuming to set up – but remember that mobile is never going away. The mobile channel will only continue to grow in scale and importance. Making the investment now will pay tremendous dividends. A few ideas to get started: 

  • Think mobile first, always (it’s our design team’s mantra; it should be yours, too). The mobile site experience, the app, and the emails should be responsive and intuitive to mobile engagement. 
  • Enabling mobile check-in via app is essential for digital-first customers. The ability to check in quickly via handheld device is often incentive enough for travelers to download the app; make sure they’re aware of it (and that it works flawlessly). 
  • Once they have the app, encourage them to allow Push notifications. Why? Because Push can become your digital concierge, recommending dining options, events, activities nearby, weather forecasts, movie recommendations, and much more. If Push isn’t their preference, offer the same services via email or SMS. 
  • As travelers interact with your communications, build a profile of their likes and dislikes. Use that profile to tailor their messages over time to make their experiences more rewarding with every visit. Experience drives loyalty, and as I’ve noted in the past, it’s essential to build the kind of experience that makes them want to stay on your site or app – because if you don’t, chances are they’ll look elsewhere. 

There will always be a place for exceptional, face-to-face customer service – the importance of those interactions can never be underestimated. But with the ubiquity of mobile and the expectations of travelers today, the mobile experience your brand delivers may arguably be even more important for generating revenue and delivering customer satisfaction. The brands that master the mobile experience will be the ones that stand out in the years to come.

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