En Route to the Perfect Trip: Why Personalized Experiences in Travel & Hospitality Matter

A traveler with her luggage is greeted by an enthusiastic front desk worker

Hospitality industry expert Geoff Ryskamp breaks down customer experience differentiators as the travel and hospitality industry adapts to rapid changes in the market.

Travelers and guests plan, book, and experience trips in dramatically different ways than they did just a few years ago. With a paradigm shift to digital and a growing demand for personalization and convenience, there are plenty of opportunities for the travel and hospitality industry to find and capitalize on customer experience differentiators. 

While optimizing traveler and guest experiences is challenging in a crowded industry, industry expert Geoff Ryskamp pinpoints pressing customer experience differentiators that the travel and hospitality industry can’t afford to ignore. 

Based on recent disruption in travel and hospitality, what have you noticed separates the leaders from the laggards in terms of the customer experiences they offer?

Industry leaders today are deliberate in how they engage with travelers, and where in the journey they have listening posts.

Today nearly all hospitality companies will send some form of survey after the fact — when a guest’s experiences and journey already ended. This is the medium of feedback capture that Medallia was the pioneer in launching at tremendous scale over two decades ago, but traveler journeys and technology have evolved. Today, solely relying on this approach would prevent companies from identifying and correcting issues as they happen and where they happen. To self-correct, frequent engagement through observed behavior, always-listening strategies, and direct feedback channels is becoming the norm in travel and hospitality.

From text alerts to in-app surveys delivered mid-stay, digital channels are critical avenues for engaging customers and ensuring near-flawless experiences that elevate satisfaction and loyalty.

Today, nearly every travel and hospitality journey involves in-person and digital experiences. In some sectors this is not the case, where a company can focus entirely on digital or in-person experience delivery, but companies in the travel and hospitality industry will only excel by bridging the gap to create hybrid journeys. And to do this well, it requires business alignment with visibility and collaboration across business units.

With convenience and personalization at the heart of successful customer experience, how can hospitality capitalize on opportunities to meet the rising standards and expectations? 

I believe the key to building industry-leading personalization and creating unrivaled convenience comes down to how experience signals are gathered and actioned. If a company is ignoring signals or failing to capture certain signals, they may be leaving critical insights and opportunities on the table.

Brands can and should leverage guest signals better. This means collecting customer feedback across every channel and every touchpoint where appropriate. It also means the industry must look beyond traditional surveys via email or website and app. There’s a wealth of data that can be found in customer reviews on social media, and through online behavioral and engagement patterns.

Bring in the right data and you’ll build more robust, segmented customer profiles that allow your brand to create unique, welcoming, and effortless experiences for travelers and guests. 

Hospitality is service-oriented, which places a lot of pressure on frontline employees. How can organizations directly improve the customer experience through their approach to employee experience?

In the travel and hospitality industry, I see the brands that commit to developing employee experience typically generate better customer experiences as a result — it very much is a virtuous cycle. When it comes to creating customer experience differentiators in a crowded industry, the way you empower, support, and communicate with employees goes a long way.

And, in particular, I think how a business engages employees around frontline operations and support or selling approaches is an underrated but often productive process. Not only does this give employees a stake in their own work, but team members on the front lines possess the most authentic firsthand insights and feedback regarding processes that work and don’t work in the field. These are insights that customer feedback or dashboard metrics won’t necessarily capture.  

Involving these employees in more strategic discussions can more effectively shape the way a business operates and approaches customer experience. In fact, some of your best ideas to improve customer experience will come from discussions with employees who are face-to-face with customers on a daily basis.

How can travel and hospitality find new opportunities to innovate customer experiences and stand out in the eyes of consumers?

Most companies, regardless of the industry — from retail to life sciences — can become obsessed with direct competition, comparing strategies and operations in order to gain an edge. This approach is not unique to hospitality But, frankly, leadership should be looking to brands in other industries that their customers know, use, and love.

For example, travel and hospitality could learn from industries that have created exceptional digital experiences in retail for ideas to improve how they serve and support their customers. Looking at different sectors can provide new inspiration for ways to innovate and differentiate in ways that aren’t being taken advantage of within travel and hospitality.

For hospitality brands, customer loyalty can be achieved by creating “wow” moments at every touchpoint. Download our guide, Getting Guests to Stay [Loyal], which showcases the guest journey in five critical parts: Research, Book, Prepare, Stay, and Post-Stay.