In a mobile-first world, SMS is proving to be one of the most essential tools for businesses. From its critical role in communicating with customers globally to providing top security, this series produced by Nexmo explores key aspects of SMS that many organizations may be unaware of. See all the posts here.
The travel industry has undergone a remarkable transformation in today’s mobile-first, on-demand world. Gone are the days when customers would book travel through an agency or call an airline to book a trip. Simply hosting a connected website isn’t enough anymore, and offering a branded app might not adequately drive the conversation with your customers. In fact, comScore found that consumers are reluctant to download branded apps unless they pertain to their daily habits — like buying coffee.
Travel has become far more complex, requiring relationships between numerous vendors, agencies and travel accounts to fulfill the end consumer’s needs. Keeping the lines of communication active between all of these essential parties is more than just a matter of convenience. More travel companies are taking advantage of cloud communications to provide a diversity of customer acquisition, customer engagement, customer experience, and global communication services, enabling them to maintain a reliable touch point with their partners and, most importantly, their customers.
In order for you to get a full perspective on all of the benefits cloud communications can offer, here’s nine ways that travel and hospitality companies can take advantage of this technology to help serve travelers:
1. Mission-critical messaging
In its simplest form, cloud communications via SMS and voice is the most effective way to deliver a mission-critical, or time-sensitive message. Booking reminders, flight change alerts, hotel confirmations, and other similar notifications will get to the user quickly if they come via a text or short voice message, as opposed to an e-mail that may land in their inbox and possibly not read right away.
By using a communication service that draws the user’s immediate attention to your notification, you face less risk that they won’t see it right after it’s delivered. A situation like this is just the thing that separates satisfied customers (who’ll use your services again and recommend you to others) from unhappy ones.
2. International reach to cost-conscious travelers
Frequently, travelers turn off their mobile data when traveling to avoid extra roaming charges, which can delay the delivery of an email, but not a text message. Using cloud communications not only maintains a critical pathway between the customer and booking agents or travel facilitators, but also maintains that connectivity no matter where the customer is — for significantly lower delivery costs. For many travel brands, this cost efficiency allows them to scale their global communications much faster.
3. Speed, speed, speed
SMS’s fast, direct connection between parties is becoming a vital tool for some on-demand businesses to enable conversations with customers. It’s no surprise that Uber uses SMS for communication between drivers and riders because it is the only channel that provides the immediacy required for their time-critical messages like driver arrival and ride booking updates.
4. Security for both providers and users
Cloud communications can also be used to protect user identities. Airbnb utilizes SMS proxy as well as voice proxy to offer private connections between hosts and travelers, which, in turn, facilitates confirmation of the traveler’s identity. SMS and voice proxies protect identities by masking the user’s phone number, while still providing the direct communication channel. Such efficient, secure communication builds a trusting relationship between the brand and the consumer.
5. Uninterrupted global connections
While SMS is generally a quick, reliable pathway for communicating, that speed and reliability can be hindered by multiple “hops” between mobile carriers if the customer is away from their home turf, just like airline travel is slowed down by stop-offs and layovers. Working with a cloud-communications company that has direct-to-carrier relationships will ensure your company’s communications arrive as quickly and as successfully as possible, regardless of the end user’s location.
6. Staving off double-dipping
Two-factor authentication is a great security tool to verify a user’s identity using their phone number. However, it can also be used to better control how — and how many — people are accessing a network. Let’s say you’re offering 30 free minutes of Wi-Fi at a airport, but want to eliminate users getting the free service, clearing their cookies and then initiating a second (or third or fourth…) session to get more free time. By requiring customers to use two-factor authentication to access the service, you will prevent “double-dippers” and effectively drive revenue by making sure they pay for their subsequent Wi-Fi use.
7. Efficient coordination between all stakeholders
All of the intermediate companies involved in a single travel booking (airlines, travel management platform, etc.) must be able to share essential notifications, and, of course, maintain connection with the customer to ensure a successful trip. If a customer booked a flight that subsequently gets canceled or delayed, the responsibility for the customer receiving a notification may fall on any one of the companies involved — and not necessarily the airline, which most consumers would see as the obvious choice.
If there’s a change in an itinerary, the traveler needs to know quickly and have the necessary changes made to enable them to get to their destination as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter which company is “fixing” their problem, as long as someone fixes it and communicates it in a timely manner. It’s the difference between being proactive to keep the customer headed toward the desired destination as smoothly as possible, and the customer feeling abandoned when a problem rears its ugly head. Cloud communications helps your business keep your customer moving in the right direction.
8. Learn more about your customer through phone number insights
Using number insights on a traveler’s phone number informs you about the phone’s point of origin, carrier, and type of connection (landline, mobile, VOIP) and roaming status, which can help you when you want to deliver a message to the customer. If you use number insights to analyze all of the phone numbers in your customer database, the next time you need to communicate with your customers, you’ll have a better idea what you need to do to guarantee your message will reach its destination. If, for instance, you’re sending SMS messages to landline phones, you’re wasting time and money. Number insights keeps your customer conversations on target and under budget.
9. Influencing your customers — wherever they are
Sending reminders, coupons, discount offers and other marketing messaging to your customers via SMS is a great way to keep the conversation with them going. After all, studies in the last few years have put the open rate for text messages at an amazing 95–99 percent (compared to open rate for e-mail of around 22–33 percent). However, if you’re not aware of where your customer is located at the time you’re delivering your message, you may run into some problems — or even fines (in the U.S., it’s illegal to send marketing texts if the customer hasn’t previously opted in).
Cloud communications will enable you to better confirm your customer’s location before you start your campaign. With that information, you’ll be able to better market to them by delivering a message that they’ll care about and that is also contextually relevant to their location.
At a time when there are dozens of travel and hospitality companies vying for each customer’s business, the companies who’ll come out on top are the ones who’ll get their message out quickly, efficiently, and with laser-like focus. Talking advantage of cloud-communications tools might just be the thing you’ll need to get an edge and stay ahead of your competition.
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