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High Customer Expectations Put Pressure on the Travel Industry

It often takes just one bad experience to send people packing

April 3, 2017 | Travel

Dreams are easily confused with reality in the luxury-tinged world of the travel industry, a segment where consumers often make purchases while imagining five-star hotels and palm tree-lined beaches.

The problem for travel companies, however, is that meeting or exceeding these high consumer expectations can be exceedingly difficult. It’s a situation that’s leading more consumers to say they will switch to another travel provider if things go wrong.

Number of Bad Experiences that Would Cause US and UK Internet Users to Stop Using/Switch Brands, by Product/Service Category, Dec 2016 (% of respondents)

Based on the results from a December 2016 survey of US and UK internet users conducted by The Harris Poll for Lithium, it often takes only one bad experience to turn off consumers from using a travel brand.

When asked how many bad experiences it would take to stop using brands in different categories, the sharing economy and hotel sector were mentioned among the top four.

Roughly 50% or more of respondents said it would take just one bad experience with companies in the travel sector before they switched, a situation that should ring alarm bells for companies like Airbnb, Uber and accommodation providers.

This same willingness to “jump ship” after a bad travel experience also comes through in a study by Aspect, which looked at US internet users who would stop doing business with a company due to poor customer service.

US Internet Users Who Have Stopped Doing Business with a Company due to Poor Customer Service, by Demographic and Industry, Q4 2015 & Q4 2016 (% of respondents of each group)

The percentage of total respondents who said they wouldn’t tolerate poor customer service in the travel industry rose from 12% in Q4 2015 to 21% in Q4 2016, the largest increase of any category studied.

In light of the growing ubiquity of user review websites and always-on social media, it’s more important than ever for travel brands to make sure they’re ready to handle misunderstandings and complaints as they arise rather than after the fact.

Last week’s series of social media complaints about United Airlines’ company dress code is just the latest in a series of ongoing examples.

Jeremy Kressmann

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