Although the Covid-19 pandemic had a huge toll on the travel industry, especially the airlines, and perhaps even more than the events of 9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis combined, it is still betting on a hard rebound to pre-covid levels of business once the restrictions ease. From the many discussions I had over the last few weeks with colleagues and professionals from across its various sectors, I could feel only positive vibes and very optimistic predictions. And if history has taught us anything, it is that this industry is used to peaks and valleys. As more and more people begin to resume travel in 2021 and beyond, the industry is yet again adapting and leading the way by innovating and redefining the new normals to regain customer confidence and enthusiasm for travel.
Many would still consider the future of travel to remain uncertain for a bit longer. But the airlines, hotels, and other service providers continue to push the innovation and transformation prompted by the pandemic to emerge stronger once travel bans and restrictions ease and operations resume, and they are turning to technology to enable them to do just that. In this article let us look at some of the technologies and strategies various segments of the industry are implementing to succeed post this pandemic.
1. Going Contactless
More than ever, the coronavirus has made us conscious of the potential invisible risks of disease transmission and the role of physical touchpoints. Most people prefer a hands-free experience. Airlines, hotels, and other service providers are now adopting a more seamless and contactless experience to the customers. For example:
- Touchless check-in experience: Service providers are reinventing how they provide technology and services, including developing technologies that customers and avail on their existing devices, as well as offering services that allow customers to minimize the time in waiting and transit areas such as the terminals, lobbies, baggage service points, etc and even order-ahead opportunities.
- Contactless payments: Customers can now leverage technologies like near-field communications (NFC) and QR codes at various customer touchpoints to process payments digitally instead of having to handle a credit card or cash.
- No touch entertainment: More robust entertainment systems are being proposed that can support personal devices like in the case of inflight entertainment. This is a big opportunity to provide a more personalized customer experience as well. Enabling personal devices in order to watch movies, play games, or reduce barriers to the internet during travel and stay will be key.
2. More Mobility
At a time like this when the customers are more willing to adapt to new changes, service providers have a big opportunity to empower their employees with mobile technology to better serve their customers. This means providing mobile technology throughout the entire organization and every service touchpoint. Three major focus areas would be:
- In Communications: Customers don’t want to wait for service center staff to track down the right person in the right department for an answer. The agents should have the ability to quickly communicate with their colleagues at any given moment. Powered by the right technology, better communication can also reduce costs by improving employee performance and improving turn-around times.
- In Access to Systems: The customer service team should have instant access to the right amount of information at the tip of their fingers. Instead of completely relying on one channel like a computer system at their desk, the staff can be enabled to work with multiple devices and platforms giving them easy access to everything as and when they need it. This can significantly reduce downtimes and delays in reverting.
- In Task Management: Tasks could be a part of an employee’s routine schedules or special assignments. Having mobile devices and technologies that facilitate real-time communications while being able to give access to the right systems will allow service providers to create, manage, and execute tasks more efficiently, helping them save big time on time and energy.
3. Health Systems
We had written about the digital health passports and the post pandemic travel world earlier this year. We also had a list of resources for travel managers and decision-makers planning a return to travel. It is interesting to see service providers include various data points in the technologies that help employees and passengers stay informed and safe during their travels. Service providers are leveraging advancements in medicine and technology to monitor the symptoms of passengers and employees.
While some are working on wearables to monitor the real-time health of their employees, others are proposing devices like travel bands that they can provide their customers to make their experience more hassle-free and less intrusive. Authorities are also working on technologies that can combine digital health and vaccine records and travel itineraries to enable a fast-track experience for travelers. The focus areas in such implementations include:
- Reducing as many contact points as possible so that customers can have a smooth and safe travel experience. For example in air travel this would mean being able to walk to the terminal and boarding the plane, every other detail could be simplified with technology.
- Enabling the employee to have access to better technology so they can better serve customers. Customers will get access to engage with employees digitally to have their issues resolved.
- Supporting new technologies and devices like wearables that can securely hold digital health records, travel itineraries, and recent health statistics to enable a fast-track type of experience.
In short, the travel industry has just got a great opportunity to set new standards in customer service as they bounce back from the pandemic. With well-devised strategies and a focus on delivering a comprehensive contactless customer experience, service providers are trying to make most of this opportunity to win back their customers and instill trust in them once again to travel confidently.