Online holiday bookings are at a record high. According to the latest ITB World Travel Trends Report, 65% of all holidays are now booked online, compared to 24% that are booked via travel agencies.

Mobile travel bookings are also on the rise, with one in five UK holiday-makers now booking holidays using a mobile device, according to a recent survey by Tradedoubler Insight Unit.

As competition moves from the High Street to digital channels, it’s now more important than ever for travel agencies to ensure their customers have the best possible experience across all channels. Broken links, payment problems, poor navigation and a lack of information can force customers to competitors’ sites, ultimately losing business. To avoid this, online operators and travel agencies need to take action fast.

Understanding customer behaviour to drive results
One online travel agent who noticed this trend and decided to act quickly was Travelocity. As the second-largest online travel agency in the world, the company recognised the importance of identifying and resolving website problems quickly. The smallest technical glitch or poor process design could adversely affect the online experience for customers, resulting in site abandonment, impeded bookings, and damage to the company’s brand.

As a result, Travelocity implemented customer experience management software to help it better manage its digital customer experience. The software enables the company to record each customer session at the browser level and view problems at the source. Using the software, Travelocity can now identify complex issues that customers have a tough time describing, apply the necessary precision in investigations and eliminate educated guesses. For example, previously, when customers complained about error messages they received during the booking process, Travelocity was not able to identify the problem from the consumer feedback. But the new solution enabled the business to replay and analyse those specific customer sessions and quickly spot that the website couldn’t process the special characters entered by customers. This was breaking the checkout process. The fix took about an hour, and conversion rates went up immediately.

Since then, the company has recaptured $1million in revenue and facilitated online bookings by quickly locating and resolving a systemic website problem. The time required to identify and resolve customer struggle has reduced from weeks to hours.  

A connected, seamless experience
However, in addition to ensuring websites are in running order to ensure customers to have a first-class experience when booking holidays, travel agents must make sure they can seamlessly switch between channels. Services like click-to-call, in-store Wi-Fi, mobile-optimised websites and reserve and collect are easy to implement and enable the company to connect all the channels to provide a single, overarching, top-quality customer experience. If a customer chooses to begin their transaction online and complete it in-store, the travel operator must have access to the online booking and be able to pick up where the customer left off.

Seamlessness across channels is equally beneficial to the travel operators themselves. Travel agents have access to a wealth of data, and they can use this to learn exactly what customers want and when. For example, a travel agency might find that Google searches for ‘cheap Greece getaways’ are popular in the months of July and August, while ‘cheap city breaks to Brussels’ are popular in November and December. Using this information, they can better align their in-store and online promotions to reflect what customers are looking for, making the overall shopping experience more seamless than ever before.

Customer satisfaction is the lifeblood of businesses. As digital channels become more widely-used in the world of commerce, customers expect to be able to switch seamlessly between them, so investing in the digital experience has never been more important for travel agents. As a result, travel companies need to begin understanding how customers operate across every channel and take steps to ensure they provide a seamless and flawless customer experience. It’s this kind of thinking that will ensure travel agents not only survive, but also thrive in an increasingly competitive digital world.

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