Personalization is about much more than recommendations

This is a viewpoint from Yaniv Reznik, CPO & SVP Customer Success at Nanorep by LogMeIn.

When booking or embarking on a trip, be it local or international, today’s traveler expects a seamless and personalized experience. But not all travel brands are confident they can deliver on this expectation. Today, when you log on to most travel websites, they will offer you recommendations on accommodations, flights or activities based on historical customer data.

This information is certainly helpful, but a far cry from a truly personalized experience. Just because I have traveled to Paris in the past, doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to go again. It doesn’t mean I want to go to Europe again. It doesn’t even mean that I want a city vacation again. Chances are, I may want something completely different. So how can travel brands take personalization further?

Understand the customer and their situation

It seems obvious, but the best way to create a personalized experience is to actually know not only who your customer is but also their current situation. Take a customer service issue – such as a customer looking for updates on a delayed flight. Providing a recommendation on a restaurant or guided tour isn’t helpful for their current situation.

To be able to focus on situational context, it’s important to be able to understand the customer journey. How have they engaged with your brand? What have they said? What questions have been asked? All this information helps create a comprehensive picture of each customer’s distinct needs.

If they have noted on social media that they are frustrated about a delayed flight, the brand should know that and be able to take action on that data during the next interaction the customer has with the brand.

Support smarter communication channels

In addition to knowing who your customers are, you also need to be able to have valuable, meaningful conversations with them. These conversations provide an opportunity for brands to collect new forms of data that can then be used to better understand your customer. Within the mountain of unstructured customer communications data lies a goldmine of insights – but it takes the right technologies to effectively sort and understand this data and make it actionable.

Chatbots and intelligent virtual assistants are emerging as efficient and effective channels to help customers self-serve. More advanced self-service technologies are using natural language processing to understand customer conversations by getting to the root of traveler situations, breaking down patterns in their responses to understand context as well as customer intent, and in turn offer highly relevant and accurate support.

Take, for example, a traveler who has a family emergency and needs to cancel a flight booked for next week. Instead of waiting in a call center queue, she can simply ask an airline’s chatbot, “I need to cancel my upcoming flight to Boston. What are my options?” The chatbot can intelligently dig into the customer’s account, leveraging Passenger Name Records (PNR) and location data to retrieve information on the specific trip and share potential next steps based on situational context – asking if the customer plans to just cancel or rebook this trip. Should she opt to rebook, the chatbot will automatically provide relevant upcoming flights to that specific destination, taking into account preferable departure and arrival times as well as class options. This not only makes the experience personalized, but also easy for the traveler who is already dealing with a stressful personal situation.

Incorporating intelligent technologies drive support channels to not only improve customer service but also ensure a highly-tailored experience that will keep customers happy and loyal.

Add the human touch

While smart channels such as chatbots and virtual assistants are great for many situations, sometimes there is no replacement for the human touch. If the query is too complex or if the customer just prefers to talk to someone, all self-service implementations must include a way to seamlessly transfer the interaction – with context – to a human agent. This can mean everything from allowing a live agent to enter the current chat through the same user-interface, to offering a unique phone line that ensures the customer will receive immediate support from an agent.

And the “with context” piece is critical. The human agent needs to be armed with all the applicable information about the customer situation so they can immediately begin remedying the issue. Making an already frazzled customer repeat information they had previously shared through other channels creates frustration and puts the relationship in jeopardy. By seamlessly connecting customer insights based on communications across channels, the live agent will have a full picture of the traveler’s situation and won’t need to waste precious time having the customer repeat themselves.

Booking and embarking on travel can be a stressful time for so many of us. The better the experience with the agency or brand, the better the chance of repeat business and long term loyalty. It’s time to move beyond anticipating recommendations and begin really getting to know customers.

This is a viewpoint by Yaniv Reznik, CPO and SVP of customer success at Nanoreps by LogMeIn.

Image by BigStock.

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Viewpoints

About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.

 

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