How Travelport is Recoding the Rules of Customer Experience
As part of my customer centricity podcast, Outside In, I sat down with Travelport’s Noel Holmes, who leads Travelport’s customer experience focus. A seasoned professional in design thinking and user experience, Noel shared his thoughtful and creative approach to engaging customers and employees to design the very best experiences.
CEO at C Space
The below is based on an episode of the Outside In podcast, which you can listen to here.
I remember the days of having to call an airline or the hotel to book a reservation. Sometimes it would take 30 minutes or more to make my reservation, and I wouldn’t necessarily get the best deal.
Those days are long gone. A business trip to New York City or a Swiss ski adventure are just a few clicks away. I can Google the best deals, search all my options, and customize my travel plans to fit my needs.
At the forefront of this digital travel frontier is a company called Travelport (NYSE: TVPT). The company’s B2B travel commerce platform offers an array of technology, distribution, and payment solutions that connect travel providers, like airline and hotel companies, with online and offline travel agencies.
It’s an exciting time for the travel and tourism industry and for Travelport’s place in it. Growth is exploding. Worldwide digital travel sales are projected by eMarketer to reach close to $630 billion USD in 2017, and Travelport alone processed over $82 billion of travel spending in 2015, according to SEC filings.
As part of my customer centricity podcast, Outside In, which you can subscribe to here, I sat down with Travelport’s Noel Holmes, who leads the company’s customer experience focus. A seasoned professional in design thinking and user experience, Noel shared his thoughtful and creative approach to engaging customers and employees to design the very best experiences.
A.B.P. (Always Be Prototyping/Partnering)
Prototyping new innovations is an affordable way for Travelport to test ideas and stay flexible in order to keep up with rapid consumer-driven change. Noel sums it up: “It’s expensive to code things, but it’s pretty cheap to prototype.”
Often, the team will put the solution out to customers for vetting to see if it makes the travel booking process smoother and their lives easier. And, Noel says workshopping and testing with customers is ideal for solving customer pain points. For example, they’ll ask end users to test and give feedback on web products like an airline seat selection tool or a hotel room reservation page. In turn, their customers (like travel agencies) see Travelport not as a provider, but a valued partner.
Creatively Designed Thinking
All Travelport employees are encouraged to walk in their customers’ shoes, and in some pretty interesting ways. They can listen in to calls from the customer care center. Or, they can mimic a customer’s experience with Travelport products, like how end users navigate a website, sign up for a service, download content, and more. “The more you can get them engaged with that real experience from the customer’s seat,” Noel says, “the more engaged they will be in driving change.”
Another creative approach is a team-building exercise Noel calls “UXcape,” a play on the popular puzzle rooms, where teams have an hour to find clues and solve puzzles to escape from a locked room. Travelport teams have just 20 minutes to put pieces of design thinking in the right order and match persona quotes to the correct persona. Noel says it’s a massive hit with employees: “We’ve got lots of pictures of people jumping up in the air with excitement and joy.”
What’s in a Name?
Noel admits his role is in the middle of an “ever-changing naming field.” There are information architects and interaction designers. There’s UX and CX. Understanding the difference helps clarify progress and goals for the business, for the industry, and, most importantly, when thinking about customers.
“UX is really about the end user – understanding the interaction and the interfaces that the user has to deal with,” Noel explains. “CX really is that end-to-end process – understanding the customer journey from the time they first hear about your product to that ongoing support and continuous renewal of relationship with them.”
Seeing how and where all the pieces connect is key to designing a delightful customer experience. But most companies have trouble doing this, often due to sheer size. “There are so many siloes and gaps that we create in different companies, and we don’t see the hand-off points and we don’t make them smooth for the customer.”
Utility vs. Usefulness
Noel is careful to point out the difference between building something that’s usable versus something that’s useful. “Beyond the ‘will they use it?’ it’s the ‘will they feel that need and desire to use it?,’” he says. Focusing on the latter is the most fun.
It’s also the most rewarding. Innovating at the speed of customer expectations and working with them throughout the design and development process requires passion and tenacity. Noel makes it clear: “When you design something that [people are] addicted to, that they feel like they have to use it over and over because they enjoy it and it makes their lives better or easier, then you’ve hit the mark.”
You may be interested in:
Stop & Shop Debuts Ads Focusing on Empathy
The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. LLC has teamed with customer agency C Space on an advertising campaign, “You Got It,” featuring documentary-style TV commercials in which real customers go about their busy daily lives – and how the grocer can help them get stuff done.
Stop & Shop ad campaign spotlights ‘real people’
by Russell Redman
Stop & Shop is supporting the launch of a major store refresh program with an advertising campaign reflecting the chain’s customer-centric strategy. Called “You Got It,” the campaign takes a real-people approach in showing how Stop & Shop helps on-the-go customers navigate their daily routines so they could spend more time with their families. The documentary-style campaign, developed by Boston-based customer agency C Space, kicked off on television, radio, online video and out-of-home media on Friday in Connecticut and on Monday in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.
Getting into consumers’ mindset: five emotional cues that drive sales and loyalty
by Sasha Fedorenko
Consumers that find retailers’ using the same set of emotional factors in their services found in strong human relationships including the relevance of experiences, ease of shopping, transparency in communications, understanding their needs and preferences and emotional rewards for their loyalty-are likely to spend and stay loyal, suggests a study by C Space.
5 Retailers With the Best Customer Experiences of 2018
by Jamie Grill-Goodman
Trader Joe’s offers the best retail customer experiences of 2018, as revealed by a study from C Space. The study demonstrates that it’s the emotional aspects of customer experience that help companies stand out from the competition and create growth.
Nordstrom, Sephora among leaders in consumer connection
Department store chain Nordstrom is among the brands offering the best customer service experiences and emotional connectivity, according to a new report by global customer agency C Space.
Leading the Way for Customer Experience
The [Customer, Experienced.] report by C Space shows that Jet2.com is the 5th best company for delivering a great customer experience. The study is based on almost 6,000 UK consumers who shared their opinions on more than 1,000 companies. The study asked customers to rate the companies against 21 emotional cues, including ‘They notice and appreciate my loyalty’, ‘They Understand My Needs’ and ‘They Make Customer Experience the Number One Job’.
Trader Joe’s, Costco, ALDI seen as experience leaders
Trader Joe’s, Costco and ALDI do a great job connecting with customers emotionally and get high ratings on customer experience as a result, according to a study from the C Space agency. Consumers perceive these stores as superior when it comes to sharing their values, such as appreciating their loyalty, the report says.
The brands with the best customer experiences are…
Chain Store Age
Trader Joe’s, L.L.Bean, and Nordstrom were the retail brands the scored the highest in a report on the best customer experiences of 2018 by global customer agency C Space, a division of Interbrand Group of Companies. Amazon, Costco, REI, Bath & Body Works, Sephora and Aldi also made the top 25. (St.Jude Children’s Hospital was No. 1.)