Google Study Shows that Good Customer Service Is More Impactful than Loyalty Programs in Travel

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There’s always some debate about the things that attract customers to a travel brand or product. If you’ve been banking on loyalty programs to hook your customers, you’ll have to guess again. Research shows that it’s customer service that travelers want.

Google’s Study Says Customer Service Is the Answer.

Think with Google, the marketing data and research sector for Google, recently performed a survey to learn more about the decisions made during the booking process for travel websites. They began the research wanting to know if customer loyalty programs made a huge difference for customers while they were researching and booking flight, hotel, and transportation accommodations.

Their findings showed that loyalty programs are actually pretty low on customers’ priority lists. Only 46 percent said they considered it. When asked their top three points of consideration before booking, 50 percent noted online reviews and 55 percent said an easy-to-use website.

But the top response for all respondents (60 percent) showed that customer service was the number one factor they considered when booking travel.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering some of the customer service faux pas we’ve seen in the past few years, particularly in airline travel. Travel organizations that take note and make changes are more likely to attract travelers.

Travel Companies Must Create Loyalty Through Customer Service.

With the right customer service tactics, organizations in the travel sector have a much better chance of engendering loyalty from their customers.

The study discovered there were two types of loyalty that customers offer when booking a service: attitudinal loyalty (feelings) and behavioral loyalty (actions).

“Loyalty is a constant choice, and marketers must think about earning both types,” the study authors say. “Attitudinal loyalty comes down to what people associate with your brand and how differentiated you are. Is the total customer experience…so compelling that people will remember it? Or are you losing customers by not even meeting their basic expectations…?”

“Behavioral loyalty is a matter of being present, with content tailored to your audience when they need it most, across channels and devices,” the authors continue. “Is your advertising optimized for channel efficiency or for providing value to your best customers?”

Consider how attitudinal and behavioral loyalty factor into your organization.

Improving Customer Service in Your Organization.

As evidenced by these study findings, it’s important to determine what makes your customers tick. Here are a few things you can do to improve customer service in your organization.

Create a good work atmosphere for your employees.

This is where good customer service starts, after all. The workplace should be comfortable for them.

“Employee well-being is strongly correlated to employee productivity and performance and even a small shift in well-being can have a dramatic impact,” says Jacob Morgan of Forbes when discussing the profound impact of a good physical work environment. “Perhaps one of the largest factors of well-being is the physical workspace. Employees who enjoy and like the environments they are a part of will be more engaged, productive, happy, and healthy.”

Pay attention to atmospheric conditions, like heat penetrating through windows and driving up the temperature. In this case, room darkening blinds will not only make the room more energy efficient, but will also improve comfort levels for your employees. Consider other environmental changes that will make working in your office more comfortable.

The cultural aspect is also important. Rebuking employees is never as successful as offering constructive criticism. Unhappy, uncomfortable employees tend to put less effort into creating high-value service for your customers.

Hire employees for their customer service skills.

You’ll save yourself a lot of headache if customer service is the number one skill you look for when hiring employees. Although you can teach some aspects of customer service, the best comes from experience rather than training.

“If you plan on out-supporting the competition, plan on investing heavily in a team that can deliver,” says Gregory Ciotti of HelpScout. “Leadership has one main objective from which they should never stray: Hire who you trust and trust who you hire.’

Implement more consistent, useful trainings.

The emphasis should be placed on the word useful. You can change that dynamic with trainings that actually teach customers how to interact with customers and solve problems with real-life examples.

Start with a variety of policies and procedures for them to follow. Offer these trainings weekly or bi-weekly in order to ensure the biggest impact.

Give the preference to loyal customers when possible.

Although customer loyalty programs were low on the list of must-haves in the travel sector, it’s still a priority for many customers. You can give customers the best of both worlds by catering to the preferences of your most loyal customers.

“It takes ages to gain a loyal customer and the onus falls on your shoulders to retain them,” says Sam Suthar, CMO of Acquire.io. “Loyal buyers like it when a business recognizes their loyalty and persistence. Rewarding or giving preference to that loyal customer should be on your books.”

When possible, give your most loyal travel customers a little something extra. It’s this mindset that will keep them coming back and telling their friends over and over again.

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