Why The Travel Industry Needs More Transparency
Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought chaos to many businesses across all sectors, in particular the travel industry. With thousands hopeful of holidaymakers disappointed when flights were cancelled this summer (for good reason), many of them were also left out of pocket – including me.
Not only that, but it seems some airlines and travel agencies haven’t done the best job of honest and transparent communication with their customers, especially when dealing with cancellations, rebooking, refunds and all that admin…
Misleading information leads to mistrust
Earlier in April, following the cancellation of my flight to Barcelona Ryanair sent out an email asking customers whether they would like a refund or voucher. I opted for the refund and filled out a form requesting a refund. Shortly after they sent out a follow-up email with a voucher, with no mention of the refund. It seems I wasn’t the only one, one look at their Facebook page and I could see a mass of raging customers who felt upset, angry and let down by this airline.
What could Ryanair have done differently?
In this case, they should have been honest with their customers about why they had to send out vouchers, but instead, they did so with no explanation, leaving their customers hanging and feeling mislead…
Now, this isn’t an attack on Ryanair. A quick look at Facebook pages of other popular airlines such as Vueling Airways, Jet2holidays amongst other British favourites, it’s clear this year has been a disaster in terms of customer communication, with the same message being pushed out across this industry.
A Lack of transparency causes the consumer to turn to other channels
A lack of information encourages customers to collate on other (social) channels seeking information, validating reactions and causing an influx of hate messaging and contact from customers. Understandably, customer service teams cannot cope with this, and a lack of direction on how to deal with this swiftly causes the reputation of the brand to plummet.
In a world where brand loyalty is becoming increasingly difficult in saturated markets. It’s more important than ever for brands to be honest with their customers. We’ve all been through this pandemic. There is sympathy to be had by customers who can hear the real people behind these companies if only the communication was right.
Let’s be honest here – if brands communicate like an emotionless block of ice then they’ll likely get the same response back…
Transparency leads to trust, encourages loyalty and people appreciate honesty. Research by Edelman (2019), found that only 34% of consumers say they trust most of the brands they use. Showing it takes considerable effort to win over the consumer in 2020. They also found that once trust is won 62% of consumers will stay loyal. Clearly showing the correlation between brand trust and loyalty.
There is no doubt the travel industry needs to start being transparent with their customers about their operations. Otherwise, consumers will feel alienated about travelling, which is the last thing the travel industry needs right now.
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So what is transparency done right?
Over the last few years, the fashion industry has started transforming it’s approach to transparent practices, showing consumers how they are doing better. In this industry, transparency specifically refers to giving the consumer a peek into the processes, operations and the people that take a piece of clothing from concept to hanger.
Popular UK-based retailer, ASOS, is putting its stamp on transparency by providing information on their Ethical Trade Program, stating that they are committed to building full visibility of their supply chain. Consumers can browse through supply chain maps on their website with a full list of all of their factories, the number of workers and female vs male employees. There is tons of information to browse, with a clear indication that this company is committed to changing unethical fashion practices.
Now, what has worked for the fashion industry won’t necessarily work for the travel industry. It is up to communication teams to come up with a strategy that benefits both the business and provides clarity to the consumer on practices within the organisation.
With companies like Airbnb disrupting the travel industry, who knows what could come out of this pandemic. One thing is for certain. We won’t stop travelling altogether but we might change the way we travel.