In the Travel Industry, Customer Service Matters More Than Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs may be big drivers of engagement in some industries, but they’re not as important as customer service when it comes to the travel space, a new study from Think with Google, Google’s marketing data and research group, and Greenberg Research revealed.

When researching travel or booking flight, hotel, and transportation accommodations, only 46 percent of customers took loyalty programs into consideration. Though attitudinal loyalty—feelings of being loyal to a brand—was anecdotally important to customers when planning travel, it wasn’t even in the top three considerations in practice. Meanwhile, 60 percent of respondents named customer service as a priority.

“Customer service is the clear priority, followed by an easy-to-use website and online reviews. Loyalty programs come in fourth, motivating less than half of the high-value travelers,” Jenna Hovel, research contributor for Think with Google, wrote in a blog post. 

This data comes ahead of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year in the United States—Labor Day Weekend. According to an annual report from Airlines for America (A4A), more than 16.5 million passengers will fly worldwide on U.S. airlines between Wednesday, August 29, and Tuesday, September 4, representing a 3.5 percent increase since last year.

What’s driving the growth in travel? Airlines are increasingly prioritizing customer service, and it’s paying off. The report found that in addition to improved performance (more on-time arrivals and departures and better-handled baggage), airlines reported lower rates of customer service complaints throughout the booking process and beyond in the first quarter of 2018.

As companies continue to better understand the role that customer service plays in boosting business, their bottom lines will benefit, research suggests. “The service you provide, across all touchpoints, is more memorable than the points you can offer,” Hovel added.

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