‘CONVENIENCE’. Today the world of e-business revolves around the word CONVENIENCE. Be it buying groceries, sending birthday gifts, booking movie tickets, buying clothes or booking train or air tickets through online platforms, at the end, it is all about convenience, which eventually leads to the ultimate customer experience. With a sudden boom in investors funding into the e-commerce space, many businesses came into existence that made the life of the end customers easy.
The retail e-commerce businesses have always taken the limelight. Media talks about Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal every other day, the latest addition being the devaluation of Flipkart and the possible bubble burst of funding era. But, here is another industry that is growing at a much faster pace but yet has just scratched the surface. Immense potential exists for the Online Travel Industry where in bookings are estimated to increase from 41% in 2014 to 46% in 2017 as per a study done by Phocuswright, a leading travel data aggregator. After all, who does not want the luxury of sitting at the place of their choice, use the device of their choice and make a booking without having to visit any brick and mortal agency.
It all started in India when Makemytrip.com, the leader in this segment today, started its operations in the year 2000. Bringing in the competition, joined Cleatrip.com and Yatra.com in the year 2006. Others having a significant share in the pie are Travelguru.com, Thomas Cook, Cox and Kings, Goibibo, Expedia, SOTC and Hello Travel. Today, there are over 30 such online companies that provide flight, train, bus and hotel bookings.
One of the biggest catalysts for the growth of this industry is the increased mobile and internet penetration. As per the BCG’s analysis, almost 40% of the travel gross bookings happen online and it is estimated that the number of internet users in India would touch 580mn in 2018 from the current 213mn. The usage of smartphones too will increase with an estimated 391mn users by 2016 end. Thus, the companies are focusing on enhancing the mobile app experience as well. Talking about the convenience, the increased penetration of secured credit/debit card payments and online payment gateways has surely made the process simpler, however, India is still way behind to unleash its complete potential.
With the increase in the disposable income of the Indian middle class and greater awareness on work-life balance in the private sector, the travel and tourism sector is already witnessing a tremendous growth. Indian Government too has been helping this growth through the campaigns like ‘Incredible India’ and tourism campaigns promoting Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala.
The future is definitely bright for the industry and the player who is successful in delighting the customer right from the ticket booking to servicing the customer, will grab the bigger share of the pie. For instance, one of the apps that I recently used for my hotel booking was Booking.com. Once the booking was made, the app gives out information on places nearby to the hotel and the possible routes and ways to commute. Well, such proactive-ness is appreciated by the customers.
However, customer experience is incomplete if focus is not given to customer queries and grievances. Companies are investing in IT solutions that help in managing the customer queries and grievances in the shortest time and keep them posted on the status as well.
Recently I was the lead consultant in a Salesforce implementation project for one of the top online travel agencies in the region wherein we built the system to measure the agents’ productivity and track the customer queries thus providing a unified experience to the customer. Thus, if a customer has called up the toll free number multiple times, any agent attending that call is aware of the previous call history and thus the customer need not explain the entire issue again. As a customer, I feel that is definitely a big plus as I feel known and understood much better.
With the rapidly changing technology, geo location and near field communications, can bring in targeted and on the spot services that leads to the final goal of that Convenience to customer which results in an unmatched customer experience resulting in smiles on the faces of people going miles.
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