The digital economy has upended our traditional perceptions of customer behaviour — and some in our sector are still waking up to the economics of this new reality.
Today, it’s not enough for a company to sell products or services. Customers want end-to-end experiences and companies have to offer tangible solutions that are helpful and relevant, with an emphasis on ease, accessibility, and speed.
Brands are measured on their ability to engage their customers in personalised, authentic, and novel ways. Customers are empowered by shopping apps, retail websites, and user-generated content, which collectively gives them the power to compare prices, read reviews, and shop on the go and at any time of day.
The aparthotel and serviced apartment sector need to keep up with other industries and of course be aligned with the hotel sector, which is already making moves to mobile booking at the room level. Investment into technology is crucial to ensure that this evolving sector maintains its current growth path and perhaps even takes the lead.
The Quest for Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty now is tenuous at best. According to Salesforce’s latest “State of the Connected Customer” report, seven out of 10 customers said technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
The report found that 71% of consumers say that customer service provided on any day, at any time influences their loyalty. A difficult checkout process can derail customer loyalty too. Half of the consumers Salesforce surveyed aren’t willing to buy when the process is time-consuming and frustrating. Ultimately, they’ll take their business elsewhere.
These sentiments extend beyond consumer transactions. 67% of B2B buyers have switched vendors for a more consumer-like experience, and they view modern technology advances as revolutionary, not hype. Survey results show that 89% of business buyers expect companies to understand their business needs and expectations. This is an important finding for the B2B space and means that each time an account changes hands from marketing to booking to customer service and onward – companies need to demonstrate an exceptional understanding of that customer’s unique needs.
Connected Customers Expect More
Travel buyers want ‘live’ availability, instant booking and confirmations. This is the norm when purchasing other travel services, and new technology solutions can make this a reality in our sector as well. Creativity is required to update business practices that give customers more control during the booking process. Utilising technology and thinking differently about business practices are crucial to solving the problem and improving the customer experience.
PwC Talent Mobility 2020 report predicts that by 2020 there will be a 50% increase in overseas assignments, and multinational companies will have, on average, assignees in 33 different countries. The next generation of international assignees will expect our sector to be nimble enough to handle these short-term and commuter assignments.
In the age of the connected customer, successful companies need to treat customer experience with the same gravitas they do customer acquisition. Technology increases opportunities to expand ancillary services that provide a personalised experience for each guest and generate additional revenue. Their wants and needs — not yours — should remain paramount. The connected customer’s expectations are higher than ever before, and the competition will likely outpace companies that fail to meet these new demands.
As an industry, we are slipping behind other verticals significantly. Technology investments and creative brainstorming are needed to ensure the industry is accepted as a viable hospitality option.