Travel brands must up customer experience to win in APAC

When it comes to customer satisfaction in Asia-Pacific, many travel brands are falling short. Mao Gen Foo, head of Southeast Asia, Qualtrics gives his two cents on why this must change for brands to stay competitive

Mao: consumers likely to look elsewhere if one business fails to respond to feedback

Driven by the rising middle-income and millennial population who are now more willing to set aside time and spend more on trips, Asia-Pacific is set to lead growth in the global travel industry with the largest tourism market the world by GDP contribution and employment, according to MasterCard’s Asia Pacific Destination Index 2017 report.

Within the travel industry, customers’ perception of product quality is often tied to service received, and customer experience (CX) is hence increasingly becoming a key differentiator for top Asia-Pacific organisations.

Mao: consumers likely to look elsewhere if one business fails to respond to feedback

While CX can make all the difference between their success or failure, the reality remains that brands are still missing the mark – 80 per cent of CEOs believe they are delivering a superior experience and only eight per cent of consumers agree, according to Bain & co.

A 2017 Qualtrics survey revealed that 41 per cent of Singaporean travellers feel ignored by hotels and airlines as they believe that their feedback never reaches the relevant department or employees. This is (cause for concern), as 39 per cent of respondents in Asia-Pacific are unlikely to continue doing business with an organisation that does not respond to their feedback, according to the 2017 report by Qualtrics.

Consumers in the region are extremely critical when it comes to response time by brands. In fact, instantaneous responses are almost an expectation that needs to be met and is fast becoming the norm. Seventy-five per cent of Singapore and Hong Kong consumers demand action from organisations and nearly half of them expect a reply within the working day. Australia and New Zealand consumers on the other hand tend to be more laidback, with less than 40 per cent expecting a response within 24 hours.

For most brands, creating a positive experience is the key to customer acquisition and retention. The top element that creates a positive travel experience is a clean, comfortable hotel room while the least important factors were fast baggage pick-up and non-stop flights.

Understanding these insights will thus allow companies to successfully reduce the “experience gap”, which refers to the (discrepancy) between what companies believe they are delivering and the experience their customers are actually receiving.

When service providers nail experience management, they will be positively rewarded. Those who get it wrong, on the other hand, will suffer severe consequences with regards to lost customers, lost revenue, reduced market share and damaged brand reputation.

With 63 per cent of business leaders in Asia-Pacific having listed improving customer experience as their top business priority, the recent establishment of Qualtrics’ South-east Asia presence came at an opportune time. The Singapore-based regional headquarters will offer greater strategic vantage in serving the needs of Qualtrics’ South-east Asia clients, as well as supporting the business’ growth and objectives for the region.

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