As vaccination rates against COVID-19 continue to increase around the globe, international travel is also picking back up. After 18 months of on-again, off-again shelter-in-place orders, some are chomping at the bit to leave home and visit somewhere new. However, there is still hesitancy around the safety and convenience of the travel experience for many.

With COVID-19 prevention as a top priority for airlines, hotels, and resorts, almost every step of the customer journey is now executed through an application or similar digital tool. Things like purchasing flights, showing boarding passes, in-flight purchases, checking into a hotel, and making dinner reservations are all parts of the customer experience that are even more digital now than before.

While some of these tools were used before the pandemic, many now have extra steps for health screenings and other preventative measures. Even though these simple tasks help keep people safe, they can become tedious for travellers.

For the organizations implementing digital tools the right way, they become quick and easy steps that become routine throughout the travel experience, working so flawlessly to integrate seamlessly into the customer experience that they’re barely noticed. The use of these digital tools becomes automatic and perhaps, after a certain point, a part of muscle memory. However, if the applications and other digital tools used by airlines and resorts suffer any performance issues, they can have a negative effect on the overall customer experience.

Understanding consumer expectations

To capitalize on renewed interest in travel, business leaders and IT decision makers need to recognize that new protocols for maintaining health and safety may not make things convenient. At such a critical time for the industry’s recovery, brands need to do everything in their power to optimize the digital customer experience to encourage confidence in the industry.

As the pandemic caused consumer expectations to rise to an all-time high, people have become less tolerant of poor digital experiences. Pitfalls like drops in application performance, inconsistent user experiences across digital services, and delays to software updates can test a customer’s patience. According to a recent study, 76 per cent of Canadians reported problems with applications and digital services during the pandemic, and most are now far more likely to take action when they do. That includes switching to an alternative service, sharing their negative experiences with other people, or permanently deleting the application.

To get travellers on board with the constant use of digital services, the customer experience must be consistently flawless; nothing else will do.

Seizing the customer experience opportunity

To attract and retain customers, businesses in the travel industry need to regain trust, confidence, and authority. There must be a focus on providing a customer experience that is safe and convenient. IT leaders need to bridge this gap to ensure both requirements are met. At the same time, new functionality, increased users, and greater demand on applications are leading to soaring complexity in the IT department. This is making it more challenging for IT leaders to know how to prioritize application fixes based on the impact to the business and the user.

Application performance monitoring (APM) and observability tools are great examples of solutions that can not only identify gaps or pain points in the travelling customer’s journey, but help solve them as well. For example, through monitoring for performance issues and automatically remediating them, full-stack observability with business context can ensure that when a guest is making a reservation they actually complete their transaction or move onto another sales opportunity.

For an industry facing a long road to recovery, it’s important for leaders to leverage every opportunity to improve the customer experience. Brands in this space are still dealing with the financial hit that came with COVID-19 and investing in tools to improve the customer experience now may seem too great of an expense. Those who take this seriously will be poised to get ahead of competitors in the race to regain customer loyalty and confidence in travel.