We recently explored why the travel industry isn’t responding to customer need for more content in their own language. We argued that greater use of voice tech is likely to help travel providers cater better to international customers. We’re currently just standing on the cusp of a revolution in voice technology, ready for lift-off.
Although home hubs and mobile voice assistants are increasingly popular, we’re probably just getting started with voice tech and it’s likely to have a big impact on many customer-focused industries, including travel and tourism.
Wider adoption of voice technology is driving a change in customer behaviour. Customers are now used to being able to get queries answered, or complete tasks such as buying tickets, whilst on the move. It’s a phenomenon that’s likely to change how they interact with hotel rooms or move through foreign cities.
Travel providers can choose to be part of that ongoing chatter or they can leave it to other independent providers, start-ups and third parties to produce the apps and chatbots that will be having those conversations with their customers – often in their own spaces.
Look at it this way. A traveller presents at your hotel’s check-in desk speaking a language your staff don’t know. They can use their own voice assistant to communicate with your team, or you can offer your own. Offering your own voice technology means you can follow your standard check-in procedure in the customer’s own language, probably ensuring a smoother experience.
You’ll be able to add in any of your standard up-selling messages or brand touches that help make the experience personal and memorable. Providing your own voice tech helps your brand stay in control of the conversation.
If travel providers decide to invest in proprietary voice technology as we’ve suggested, there are lots of opportunities to have conversations with customers that they’ve not necessarily been able to have before – particularly when it comes to targeting language groups outside the norm.
European hotels may offer other European languages but they’re likely to be less well set up to cater to Asian languages. That means there are some missed opportunities happening when it comes to engaging Asian visitors. Voice technology could change that and also perhaps change the number of touchpoints at which engagement can happen.
That potentially opens up the field for a major data revolution in the travel industry. Providers should be able to engage with more of their customers, which means they’re getting closer to them and understanding their needs better than ever before.
What do they do with all that data? There’s a real opportunity to turn those interactions into actionable data points that help brands get better at what they do.
A broader experience
If travel brands do decide to get involved in providing proprietary voice tech for their customers, there’s real potential to expand the scope of services they offer. If it’s cheaper and easier for brands to offer a wider range of answers and advice, it’s feasible that they could cast their net over a wider part of the tourist experience.
For example, your hotel could guide you from arrival at the central train station via public transport to their doorstep. Hotels located near major tourist attractions could provide their own commentary, owning your wider travel experience.
First and foremost, the travel industry is a service sector. The major difference voice tech will make is to the way customer calls, queries and other interactions are managed. Voice tech will help travel brands improve and differentiate their customer-facing services so they can ace this really important part of their offering.
But if voice tech changes consumer behaviour and expectations as much as it is expected to, consumer expectations will adjust to expect this as standard.
Customer care is such an important part of the travel industry’s offering that any change to how it is offered is going to affect the competitive landscape. Brands that win at voice tech are likely to leverage reduced costs and improved competitive advantage to get ahead.
But there are real pitfalls too. As with any technology, there’s always the danger of making a bad investment or having an implementation go disastrously wrong. There are new ways to bodge things – such as voice tech not recognising a customer’s dialect. And bringing in greater levels of automation means reorganising structures, which is always a risk.
With consumers consistently saying they want to be catered to in their own language, voice tech is potentially a real gift to the travel industry.
Managed properly and implemented well, it’s a way to differentiate customer service and try to get ahead of the competition. For this reason, voice tech is likely to have a disruptive effect on the travel industry as providers race to respond to and implement the new technology.