For Travel Companies a Summer of Love Depends on Customer Satisfaction

Summer being the season for exploration, adventure and relaxation, travel companies everywhere will soon see their customer service experience strategies put to the test. For airlines and cruise lines in particular, summer is anything but relaxing – the high expectations and constant scrutiny from travellers combine to make these companies long for winter.

Smooth sailing for cruise lines in customer satisfaction department?

A recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a measure of consumer contentment nationwide, found that Americans still view their airlines unfavourably in key areas like customer service experience and physical comfort. Approximately 70,000 Americans weighed in as part of the annual survey, ranking the airline industry as a whole second from the bottom. In fact, as the L.A. Times reports, the industry’s poor result comes despite a bump from the previous year’s score.

Another recent report, this one from J.D. Power, a global research company that monitors important indicators like customer satisfaction, produced a snapshot of the cruise line industry. The report examined consumer attitudes toward service, food and cost, among other factors.

Staying afloat with the help of good food and even better service

Even in the wake of some high-profile nautical disasters, including an engine fire on a Carnival Cruise Line ship and the Titanic-dwarfing Costa Concordia, which ran aground near an Italian island, the survey yielded some sunny news for the industry. The survey showed high customer satisfaction with cruise lines overall, but with much room for improvement.

Disney Cruise Line took top spot, faring better in food and entertainment than customer service experience, according to J.D. Power. But the survey also yielded valuable insight into how these travellers respond to problems that arise onboard. For example, while one problem would not deter most people from taking another trip with that particular cruise line, two or more problems would cause them to seriously reconsider.

As the J.D. Power report acknowledges, high satisfaction with the customer service experience and related factors positively impacts loyalty and retention. But how does a cruise line (or an airline, for that matter) increase satisfaction among its passengers?

J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey found that cost plays a prominent role, indicating that as prices rise, so does the likelihood of a traveller turning elsewhere in the future if their experience was lacking. Meanwhile, those who showed a strong inclination toward embarking on another journey with their cruise line highlighted service as the deciding factor.

Ultimately the array of travel options – and even the increasingly popular “staycation” option – makes it critical for companies to fulfill or exceed customer expectations. Airlines and cruise lines can glean much from nationwide surveys, especially as they offer helpful comparisons between companies.

But implementing a customer satisfaction survey of their own will let them craft the kinds of questions that will be most useful for their particular goals. Continuing with the J.D. Power report as an example, Royal Caribbean International, second overall behind only Disney, fared best in service but was less successful in the areas of food and entertainment. Their next customer satisfaction survey need not focus so heavily on the customer service experience, and should instead target those lacking areas.

Web continues to show the way forward

At the same time, the report highlighted the growing importance of websites in creating brand awareness, but the online domain also plays a role in customer satisfaction. A well-crafted survey, one geared toward the customer’s online experiences, will help companies leverage this increasingly critical tool. For example, they can gauge perceptions of website attractiveness, user-friendliness, intuitiveness and other important indicators.

Whether customers travel by air, water, rail or road, expectations remain sky high, especially as travel in any form is seen more and more as a luxury. Surveys from the likes of J.D Power and the American Customer Satisfaction Index provide valuable reminders of the importance of a full-scale, vigorous customer satisfaction strategy.

Jul, 05, 2013