Business observability and the travel and hospitality industry: a key to successful recovery

For most industries, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. For some, “accelerated” is an understatement. The global travel industry has arguably been hit the hardest, and the disruption is pervasive – and ongoing. Consider these staggering statistics from last year:

  • During lockdown peaks, several European countries experienced a 99% decrease in bookings through travel aggregator sites like Booking.com and Expedia
  • International travel spending fell by 76%
  • U.S. hotel occupancy averaged just 44%

As the pandemic erratically recedes and travel restrictions adjust dynamically, personal wanderlust and pent-up business demand suggest the industry may be poised for a strong, if fitful, comeback. But it won’t be a return to business as usual. Consumer expectations have changed, often dramatically. From practical shifts – flexible cancellation policies, short-haul trips, and last-minute bookings – to forward-looking strategies – contactless communications, smart rooms, and robots – travel experiences are increasingly digital, and guest experience is becoming synonymous with digital experience.

Already in 2018, 82% of all travel bookings globally took place without human interaction. For some time, a travel company’s digital presence has been the primary way to attract and interact with customers. But digital experience can drive growth only if it meets or exceeds customer expectations. As the last two years have shown, these expectations remain difficult to predict.

Digital. Unpredictable. Easy to lose.

Adobe’s 2021 Digital Trends Report outlines a new customer profile with these three characteristics. In fact, your customers are unpredictable and easy to lose because they’re digital. The importance of factors such as price, safety, convenience, change fees, loyalty points, entertainment – the list can be very long – varies from one customer to the next, and may even change from visit to visit. Accommodating a broad range of preferences requires increased personalization – and results in greater user journey complexity. And we know from experience that complexity and rapid change can lead to unanticipated friction, customer frustration, and lost opportunities.

Adobe 2021 Digital Trends quote

Anecdotes: three jeers for the losers

Here are three experiences I had traveling recently that can add some context to the challenges and opportunities inherent in customer experience.

  • The airline: My preferences for a recent long-haul flight included price and the availability of aisle seats. Demand was high, and it took a lot of searching to find the perfect itinerary – which came with an ominous warning that only a few seats remained at this price. During the booking process, I attempted to use some of my travel vouchers – but the button to apply these credits didn’t work. I tried a few times, then – as a last resort – I called the customer service number, but wait times were “longer than normal.” Not wanting to risk losing my preferred flight, I gave up and booked without using the credits. Grade: C-
  • The hotel: Preferring increased social distancing, I booked an apartment through a major hotel chain’s vacation rental subsidiary. Arriving late at night, I learned that the reservation had just been cancelled – without explanation. Neither the hotel customer service nor the property management company could help beyond referring me to the contact center – staffed only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The next morning, the call center’s automated attendant referred me to email for assistance. I lost an entire day due to an IT system problem that nobody noticed. Grade: F
  • The rental car: Preferring the privacy of a rental car over public transportation or Uber, I reserved a car for a short city vacation. Upon landing, my phone notified me that my rental car was ready, clean, and waiting for me in parking slot #315. I could upgrade the vehicle in the app, or simply get in the car and use the QR code to exit the garage. The only hitch was that the QR reader wasn’t working – but the agency knew that and had staffed the exit gate. Grade: B+

What do you think my net promoter score (NPS) might be for each of these? Which experience am I most likely to share, with friends or on social media? Each of these represents a flawed omni-channel user journey, with varying degrees of customer frustration.

BizOps maturity

How well do the IT departments for each of these companies monitor critical user journeys and business transactions? Based on my experience, here are my guesses:

  • The airline IT team does not monitor user journeys. Instead, they rely on complaints (through call center or Voice of the Customer feedback) to uncover problems. (The unresponsive button problem has now been fixed.)
  • The hotel’s rental subsidiary limits their IT monitoring to internal system metrics, with no visibility into user journeys or business transactions.
  • The rental car company monitors user journeys. They were aware of the problem and took corrective action, preventing significant friction.

Business observability: a critical success factor for IT

How would you rate your IT department’s visibility into user journeys and business outcomes? How quickly do you detect technical issues that cause friction in your customers’ user journeys? By themselves, contact center escalations, Voice-of-the-Customer feedback, and web analytics alerts fail to give IT the real-time visibility and the diagnostic detail teams need to anticipate, observe, and remove friction from important user journeys – before they impact business outcomes.

Here’s an example of a simple business impact dashboard highlighting key guest tasks. The business app owner typically identifies tasks aligned with specific business KPIs. You might also choose to include additional business metrics such as revenue, points redemptions, baggage fees, and so on, to add greater insight into the impact of service quality on business outcomes.

T & H dashboard, business observability

For each key guest task the application supports, it’s important to monitor the underlying user journey to understand where – and why – friction occurs. These user journey views provide early warning to unexpected sources of user frustration; in my airline example, the airline would have been alerted to abandons at the voucher step correlated with my rage clicks. User journey views also help to proactively identify opportunities for IT to reduce friction and improve the conversion rate.

business observability

Switching from theory to practice, below is a dashboard from one of our customers. Note the business observability realized by extracting business metrics and segmentation – including conversions, revenue, product, and audience segments – from Dynatrace-monitored user sessions. Through the resulting improvement in BizOps collaboration, the company is well-positioned to understand and adapt to real-time changes in customer preferences and market conditions.

business observability

Dynatrace and business observability

Successful collaboration between business and IT operations teams starts with shared goals and shared metrics, leading to measurable improvements in customer experience. Contact your account team to get started today.

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