The bar is so high right now in the travel industry when it comes to customer experience. In fact, in our recent survey of holiday-goers, 89% of people rated their last holiday ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

We’re usually at our happiest on holiday, so perhaps it’s not such a huge surprise that number is so high. But with travel brands also having upped their CX game in the last few years, there’s so little room at the top for brands to differentiate themselves. The gap between what customers expect and what brands are delivering is small – and shrinking all the time.

To stand out in a crowded market, it’s become mission critical that brands understand their customers – and what drives their spending – in greater detail than ever before.

Based on our survey of 1,000 UK holiday-goers, here’s a few of the ways travel brands can get ahead of their rivals. Download the full report

Holiday booking

1. Compete on experience, not just price

With many people using price comparison sites to book every part of their holiday, travel brands can fall into the trap of competing purely on cost.

But our research suggests there’s bigger motivators for going on holiday than finding a great deal – and brands shouldn’t ignore the emotional aspect of a holiday as they market themselves to customers.

Our survey showed 41% of people bought their last holiday to cheer themselves up, versus 28% who were swayed by a cheap deal. Focusing on the incredible experiences someone will have on holiday, then, can be a more powerful encouragement to book than just talking about price.

The airport

2. Make the ‘necessary’ a bit less burdensome

The average person spends 133 minutes in the airport before a flight. And a lot of that time is spent doing things that, while necessary, aren’t exactly fun.

Security checks are the main reason we arrive at airports early, and they’re the top of the pile when it comes to our worst experiences.

But airport operators shouldn’t resign themselves to this reality, especially as our research showed people were willing to buy a more expensive flight to travel from their favorite airport. To differentiate your airport, maybe extra staff are needed to get people moving through the checks faster; or, it might just be clearer signage and instructions that help people to self-serve.

The flight

3. Rethink how you deliver bad news or respond to poor experiences

It won’t come as a surprise to airlines that many of the things customers hate about the flying experience aren’t in their control. Delayed flights? Blame the weather, or congested skies. Slow security checks? Blame the airport.

What’s most telling from our research though is that customers feel airlines are responsible for almost every aspect of their flight. But that 80% of people who had a bad flight experience say the airline did nothing to fix the situation.

There’s an opportunity for airlines to outdo rivals when it comes to closing the loop with dissatisfied customers, or taking more ownership of delivering bad news and solving problems. Anything you do would need to be balanced against cost and ROI, but top airlines like JetBlue are going all in on saving the day for customers who are having bad experiences at any point during their journey. Watch JetBlue’s story

Rental cars

4. Make it easy to switch to favored brands

While many of us have a horror story about renting a car abroad, our research suggests the reality is far more rosy for brands in this space. In fact, 85% of people had a good rental car experience on their last holiday.

So how do brands stand out? What’s interesting is that nearly a quarter (23%) of people said they paid more to get their preferred car brand. So one way rental car companies can differentiate themselves is not only offering a wider choice of brands, but making the process of switching or upgrading much more straightforward.

Hotels

5. Get a handle of your online reputation

For many people, their experience of a hotel might come to an abrupt halt if that hotel’s online reviews are bad. In our survey, 85% of people said they looked at online reviews when they booked their hotel; but 52% of those people said they didn’t look at hotels rated under 60% (or 3 stars).

And customers will definitely tell other people about their bad experiences. A huge 61% said they’d left a bad review of their last hotel because of a poor experience.

It’s now integral to any hotel brand to identify trends in their online reputation, proactively solicit positive reviews, and close the loop publicly with detractors.

Discover how you can use Qualtrics to manage your online reputation

6. Get the small things right first

Hotels are competing with each other to deliver breakthrough experiences, running the gamut from unique activities to cutting-edge technology.

However, hotels mustn’t lose sight of what customers really want: a comfy bed, a clean room, and some peace and quiet. Those were the 3 key drivers for customer satisfaction in our survey, and a reminder that it’s often the basics that dictate overall CX.

And if a hotel brand can’t master the little things, then it won’t make up for it with any big-ticket experiences.

Report: UK holidays abroad 2019

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