Customer experience best practice in the travel sector

2015 was a good year to be holidaying. The hotel chain Premier Inn is currently the highest-scoring company in the travel sector, sitting just outside the top 10 in 11th position, with an excellent CEE score of 7.84. And if customers need a strong CX brand to get them to their destination, the airline Emirates would appear to be a worthy choice, sitting just behind Premier Inn in 14th place, with a CEE score of 7.82. There are, however, many UK travel brands whom have delivered customer experience best practice in 2015.

Appropriately for companies that specialise in creating relaxing experiences, both Premier Inn and Emirates achieved high scores in the pillar of Time and Effort, attaining very respectable results of 8.33 and 8.07 respectively.

Making a promise to your customers

For Premier Inn, this success is reinforced by an initiative it calls The Good Night Guarantee. As the brand states on its website: “…we’re so confident you’ll have a great night’s sleep that, if you don’t, we’ll give you your money back. Just speak to one of our friendly reception team. This is our Good Night Guarantee.” And as Premier Inn goes on to explain, this is something its employees are “happy” to do, even if it is at four o’clock in the morning; Premier Inn operates a “24 hours a day, 7 days a week” service in its hotels, making it easy for customers to come to them with any issues as and when they arise.

In addition, there is a strong sense of efficiency evoked on its website. One of the frequently asked questions is given as: “Who do I speak to if I do not wish to discuss my complaint with the reception team?” and Premier Inn succinctly responds: “We’ve thought about that. In every bedroom, you’ll find the contact details of the management team responsible for your hotel. They’ll be happy to hear from you.” The fact that the brand reassures the customer that it has already anticipated their needs is comforting, and suggests that it is poised to tackle a range of other concerns, too.

Keeping the customer informed

Similarly, the airline Emirates also uses its website to make progress in the pillar of Time and Effort. As soon as the customer lands on the homepage, one of the first things they will see is the writing in the centre of the page offering important travel updates. The brand makes a concerted effort to keep its customers in the loop, finding out important information so that the travellers don’t have to. It strives to alleviate stress with a view to preventing problems further down the line. “Whether it’s your first flight or simply your latest, we work to anticipate your every need,” the brand says.

Perhaps Emirates took a leaf out of British Airways’ book – another customer experience best practice brand in the UK travel sector. The airline is renowned for staying in touch with travellers’ needs and emotions, and is adept at limiting the effect of factors beyond the brand’s control, such as flight cancellations caused by adverse weather. Furthermore, Emirates has proven that it is able to adapt the customer experience to the needs of the individual, affording itself an exceptional 8.24 score in the pillar of Personalisation. For example, it pays particular attention to those customers who may be flying as part of a family. “We think ahead on every step of your journey when you’re travelling with children, whether it’s complimentary strollers at the airport, themed giveaways or special meals your family will love,” it says. Emirates also boasts a wide range of different types of in-flight entertainment, citing everything from “Hollywood to Bollywood” across 2,000 channels in multiple languages. The brand, it would seem, is aware of just how eclectic its customer range is, and is committed to creating the optimum experience no matter what their age, gender or background, or even personal preference. “…we have movies with Audio Description and Closed Captions if you’re hearing or visually impaired,” the brand adds. “Create your personal playlist of favourites, and laugh, shed a tear or cheer your way to your destination.”

And whilst guests at Premier Inn might not have the same entertainment needs, the brand still works hard to look after them, clocking an equally strong score of 8.13 in the pillar of Personalisation. Like Emirates, Premier Inn makes provision for customers with children, offering them free stays, free breakfasts, and “loads of space to run around” in its “spacious” family rooms.

In fact, such is the depth of Premier Inn’s customer knowledge, it also accommodates guests who may have reached them by less-conventional means. “We welcome cyclists,” the brand states, “and we’re always here to make sure you get a good night’s sleep before a day on two wheels. You’ll either be able to keep your bike in your room, or we’ll store it safely for you. So whether you’re embarking on a nationwide tour, or fancy having your bike with you just in case, our friendly hotel bike policy makes it easy.” As such, Premier Inn works hard to make its customers feel as ‘at home’ as possible, no matter what their lifestyles or circumstances.

As Tamsin Jenkins, KPMG Nunwood’s Head of Customer Experience Excellence, points out: “Customer experience best practice brands in the UK Travel sector are exceptionally good at looking after their customers’ individual needs, and this is exemplified in the work of companies such as Premier Inn, Emirates, and British Airways,” she says. “Whether customers are travelling at 30,000 feet, or sleeping in a room in an unfamiliar city, these brands endeavour to take care of their concerns, and to anticipate what they want before problems even arise. As a result, they are leading the way in the Travel sector, and in the UK Customer Experience Excellence rankings as a whole.”

For more customer experience insight visit the KPMG Nunwood CEM blog.