Grounded: Travel Organizations Face Internal Barriers to Machine-Learning CX Solutions

In 2018, most travelers turned to Google with purchase intent, expecting intelligent assistance. Now, machine learning technology is helping world-leading travel and hospitality companies discover, sort, display, and recommend personalized content and assistance at every customer touchpoint.

As part of our ongoing research project, The Age of Assistance: How Machine Learning Makes Sense of Consumer Intent, Identity, and Context, WBR Insights benchmarked travel organizations across sizes and verticals to establish just how close–or far behind–these organizations are compared to industry leaders. Our findings indicate that while a small share of organizations are achieving success, large numbers of travel groups struggle with internal pain points preventing them from getting machine-driven and automated CX off the ground.

Respondents to the survey were senior managers, directors, department heads, VPs, and C-Suite executives representing travel organizations of all sizes – SMB (40%), mid-market (33%), and enterprise (27%).

Shortcomings with Automated CX Technologies

When asked to describe their maturity in terms of personalizing experiences at every customer touchpoint, almost three-quarters of travel organizations rate themselves as only average, in need of improvement, or poor.

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In fact, over one-third claim they do not have the technology to do this effectively, among which 7% claim they have no developed plans to implement smarter solutions at all. (Two options have been omitted from this chart and will appear in the final report.)

Despite their developing or even stalled maturity, respondents to the study feel an urgency to deliver smarter experiences to customers so accustomed to the proactive support of personal technology and smart digital platforms. According to one survey respondent:

"We want to ensure we remain frontrunners in the CX space in our industry. Our machine learning is in the early stages [and remains a] work in progress, though our initial goals are achieved."

Internal Barriers to Launch

But many travel organizations' barriers to creating competitive solutions begin at the implementation or even early adoption stages, delaying their engagement with customers.

In each case, almost half of organizations struggle to get new technology investments off of the ground (48%); meanwhile, almost half struggle to achieve executive approval for new technologies to begin with (45%)–the two most-cited pain points among five options. According to one respondent:

"Adopting some of the larger technologies is...a significant investment for some hotel owners and some will have to wait until the costs decrease. However, we all know that guests want things readily available at their fingertips... They want to be able to connect all of their devices."

Now, most respondents aren't satisfied with their organizations' maturity in terms of CX. Only 2% of organizations have a mature machine-driven, cross-channel CX strategy.

And just as nearly half of organizations struggle with getting new technology investments both approved and off the ground, internal barriers prevent them from adopting automated, cross-channel messaging–namely, internal decision makers and internal resources or expertise. (Three options have been omitted from this chart and will appear in the final report.)

Despite these challenges, many of the respondents are optimistic about their futures. They describe their ideal customer experiences as 'dynamic and personalized,' 'totally integrated across touchpoints,' or a 'self-service driven omnichannel experience.' The majority of organizations consider themselves above average or exceptional at acting upon user intent to purchase–imagine what they'll achieve with smarter CX.

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