(Continued from Extending the Customer Experience Lifecycle)
Most travel agencies only focus on, and are present in, a small part of the travel customer experience lifecycle. Typically starting with the marketing of travel packages, and ending with the delivery of the tickets.
But the holiday travelers’ experience is much wider; it starts from the very moment the customers decide to take a holiday, through their experience of the travel and holiday destination itself, and lives on long after their return home, in their memories.
Some travel companies already provide customer value on a slightly wider scale of the customer experience lifecycle. For example at the early stages of the travel experience by providing a wealth of travel information and advice, helping the customers choose their holiday destinations, even dates. This provides additional customer value beyond simple marketing.
Differentiating with Additional Value
Basically there is little difference between travel packages between one company and another. But companies can differentiate themselves by enhancing the traveler’s experience beyond the standard touch-points.
You buy a travel package that includes flight and hotel with your credit card. When you arrive at the hotel, you need to give your credit card again for deposit. From the business perspective this may seem completely normal, but from the customer’s perspective, it is unnecessary. You gave your credit card and paid already. This is a practice that puts on the customer (who is on holiday) efforts that could be handled by business processes. Avoiding this step would establish a relation of trust and let the customer focus on the holiday.
The company’s presence in the customer experience could be reinforced through small details, for example with welcome drinks or a fruit basket, or a simple in-room welcome message, compliments of the travel company.
Although most travel agencies would not consider these examples as part of the product they sold, they are nonetheless part of the traveler’s holiday experience. And if a company can provide these time-saving or relationship-building little extras, it will make the holiday experience that much memorable and appreciated. It may require special agreements with partners, but being on top in an industry sometimes requires reinventing processes.
Beyond the Touch-point: In Memories
We could think that the travelers’ customer experience ends when they return home. But the travel experience continues to live on in the traveler’s memories. Some travel agencies try to differentiate themselves by offering unique experiences that go beyond the ordinary travel package; Custom-made tours that take customers where almost no other company can. For example, going backstage meet the artists at a famous musical or visit the restricted workshop areas at an archeological excavation site and see artifacts yet unreleased to the public.
Providing an overall excellent experience before and during a holiday certainly creates better memories, but a very important emotional part of the travel experience is in sharing the memories with friends and loved ones.
Helping the Sharing Experience
A company who would help the traveler enhance the sharing experience would likely gain a special emotional bond with the customer. The travel experience can be shared verbally, but is now increasingly done by showing photos of travel.
One way to extend the presence in the post-travel customer experience and help the sharing process would be, for example, to provide a service to digitalize customers’ film photographs, or help organize and publish online their favorite photos.
Another way of creating a better post-travel experience could be in helping customers take better photographs in the first place through photography workshops. Travel photography workshops take customers on local or overseas organized trips where they are taught in photography theory and taken to picturesque locations under ideal conditions to take professional-looking photographs. These are often offered by photography studios, but not by travel agencies.
Helping not only create better memories but also helping to share them provides unspoken value to the customer in terms of projected image, as it grants the traveler with peer’s admiration. In return it provides the company with a delighted customer and valuable positive word-of-mouth.
As shown through the travel experience example, the customer experience in any industry extends far beyond the customer lifecycle most companies are concerned with. There is great potential for companies to differentiate themselves and reinforce the customer loyalty by extending their presence in the customer experience lifecycle.
David Jacques is Founder and Principal Consultant of Customer input Ltd and a pioneer in the field of Customer Experience Management. He has created the first Framework that brings together cohesively every aspect of Customer Experience Management. He is also passionate about having an in-depth understanding customer values to create emotionally-engaging customer experiences not only at individual interactions but also seamlessly between them.