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In terms of customer experience, travel is surviving. Just.

The wing of a Qanats plane photographed from inside the plane mid flight

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Why read this? : Travel and tourism’s been hit hard this year. We look at what Qantas and Tourism Australia are doing with their marketing to keep going. Learn the messages they’re putting out and the way they’re keeping customers engaged. Read this to see how in terms of customer experience, travel and tourism are still surviving. Just.

We all need to take a deep breath. Covid-19 seems to be slowly grinding the world into tired, Zoom-eyed submission. And we all seem to be mostly stuck at home like children on the naughty step. So we felt we needed a change of (virtual) scene this week. 

So, we’ll be looking at one of the most hard-hit industries in the pandemic, travel and tourism. And in particular what the online customer experience is like, with all the travel restrictions in place.

Customer experience - travel and tourism

Travel and tourism is a service-led industry. It’s built on great customer experience.

Back in the days (last year) when we could go to CX and marketing technology conferences and events, it’d always be well represented with speakers and attendees. Business was great pre the pandemic.

But 2020 has hit that industry hard. It’s been as painful as a kick in the balls. Or an extended labour depending on your pain frame of reference. 

Take Qantas, for example.

The wing of a Qanats plane photographed from inside the plane mid flight

We can say the pandemic has been tough for everyone. But, it’s been particularly tough for those guys. 

When the national government basically tells you “Your normal business that generates all your profits and pays your staff? Yeh, we’re shutting that down”. That’s a tough one. 

And while the Qantas business is limping along with limited domestic flights and the severely scaled down international business, it’s had to let go 20% of its staff. Many thousands of others have been stood down. 

That sucks.

The Qantas customer experience - travel well

But there’s still life in Qantas. You can still fly, despite all the restrictions. 

So, we wanted to check out the customer experience you get with them if you do need to fly somewhere.

How different is it from “before”? How have they adapted themselves to the current reality? What’s the story you find at qantas.com?

Well, right there at the top of the page is their COVID-19 update banner. External communication and website team, job number one done.

It’s clearly the biggest thing on people’s minds at the moment. 

Qantas other services

And next you read all their links up to their other services like hotels, shopping, wine, money and insurance. Somewhere at Qantas there are still teams working on these services. We can tell because of the amount of emails we get from them. 

No issue with them trying to make an extra buck from these, to be fair. 

Though we wish their CRM and data analysis was better. They might have picked up our non-response to their daily emails means we aren’t really a high potential customer. They really could ease off on the frequency of contact. It’s gets annoying after a while. 

But on the home page, we can see they’re on the ball enough to add updates about changed circumstances to New Zealand, and domestic flights. 

On top of the latest events

It shows they’re on top of the latest events.

Customers need to know that. 

And then, the rest of the home page content is still about cross-selling. Their credit card. Their club membership. And how to earn more points. 

OK, maybe not quite so good.

Get the need to keep their business going any way they can. But really, some of these don’t feel very essential, do they?. 

But overall, the home page and general site experience, it’s clean, functional and practical. A bit like the experience on their planes. 

But somehow, it also feels like there’s something missing. 

And that’s maybe the feeling you get when you fly with Qantas, that you can’t get from a website. The level of service and the people that provide it. There’s no real feel of that on the website. We couldn’t really see anything about the people at Qantas. 

It all feels a little corporate and sterile. There’s no real people there.

It’s not really a criticism, more just a missed opportunity. Or maybe even, a future opportunity? 

Bring people together

Because Qantas is about bring people together. Their best advertising shows that. 

They’ve always been great at brand storytelling. In particular they know how to use emotion and add value to their marketing with stories

So when Covid-19 finally runs it course, there’s an opportunity for Qantas to re-ignite that connection. Because part of the customer experience of travel is you get to connect with people. 

With the layoffs and furloughing, we get the need to be sensitive. Their people and culture have clearly taken a battering. We can understand they don’t want to stir up bad feelings.

But, their website feels empty and soulless without the people behind Qantas. In fact, it probably replicates the experience of going to an airport at the moment.  

Hmmm.

But, anyway, let’s put aside the people message for now. We want to focus on customer experience. And that’s usually a bit more practical than emotional, anyway. 

So, let’s imagine we did need to fly.

How’s that experience at the moment on their website?

Getting to London is easy, but …

Having not booked a flight in 2020, using their site to check flight availability feels kinda weird. Like wearing old clothes that have gone slightly out of fashion. Familiar, but don’t quite feel right. 

We looked at 2 hypothetical trips that, were the pandemic not still on, we might want to make. International to London. And domestic to Adelaide.

Flying from Sydney to London was surprisingly easy. Good choice of flights. The prices feel similar to what you’d have paid pre-pandemic.

Interesting.

... getting back is more of a challenge

But getting back from London to Sydney, was a whole other matter.

The only options available were if you cashed in Qantas points. So, you couldn’t book a flight unless you were a Qantas member.

And in fact, we know you have to be an Aussie citizen or have special circumstances to board a flight to Australia. 

And these flights are limited to 3-4 a week. 

We didn’t go much further than this given we have no desire to fly into the maelstrom of Europe’s second wave of the pandemic. Even more so, if it would be so hard to get back.

But it showed us that, international travel wise, the world is pretty screwed at the moment. Qantas have done their best to keep the customer experience going. But, unless you had to, who’d want to do that, right now? Health concerns aside, there’s just the unpredictability of how travel is going to work. 

Qantas recognise that too.

Disclaimer

Check out this little disclaimer on the flight detail page. 

We will do our best to get you where you want to be on time, but we don’t guarantee flight times or schedules and they aren’t part of our contract with you.

We understand why they’d include this disclaimer. There’ll be circumstances they just can’t control. And, we imagine people who’ve had flights delayed, cancelled or otherwise disrupted feeling stressed and frustrated.

But when you read this, it does put you off flying. You’d only fly if you really had to. 

So, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually ever get these. It’s not part of their contract with you. For the international flight customer experience, travel is pretty much busted. 

OK.

There’s always Adelaide

Much safer would obviously be closer to home.

Melbourne aside, Australia’s done a pretty good job at keeping the pandemic under control. 

And as Queensland has still mainly fenced itself off from the rest of Australia, we thought Adelaide was probably the best option at the moment.

So, let’s check-out what Sydney – Adelaide flights look like right now. Does the domestic flight customer experience travel any better?

Well, actually, yes, by quite a way. 3 or 4 flights a day. And that’s pretty much, every day. And at prices that seem pretty close to what they were last year.

Yes, getting there AND back, pretty easy to be honest.

And while the temptations of the Barossa and Clare Valleys do hold some appeal, they don’t hold enough appeal to get us booking flights any time soon. The thought of being in closed space in the middle of a pandemic, still makes us feel a little uncomfortable. 

But the fact we can if we want to, makes us happier.

And we hope for Qantas and tourism’s sake, enough people are using the option (safely, of course) to keep it viable. But our travel thoughts are still very much about keeping our feet on the ground. 

Talking of which.

Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia’s an interesting brand. 

They were rightly recognised for their stand-out Super Bowl ad featuring Chris Hemsworth to drive tourism from the US. 

The long-term ROI on that campaign’s been destroyed by the pandemic, however. Film stars and celebrities seem to be the only Americans welcome in Australia at the moment. 

So, with limited travel, they’ve done a pivot to focus on domestic tourism.

They’ve hired high profile (for Australia) couple, Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake. Their “Holiday here this year” campaign might not win so many awards.

And, you do wonder about the creative need to force in an awkward Zoom call to make it feel more “pandemic-y”.

But, it does the job it needs to do. That’s fine.

Not all advertising needs to win awards. 

And when you go to the Tourism Australia page, the customer experience gets even better. 

There’s a banner at the top of the page and a box about Covid-19 and what it means for travel and tourism.

It’s confusing that to find more specific information about the circumstances in each state you need to click on link to the websites of those particular states. But, that’s not really the fault of the website. It’s the fault of the confusing messages coming out from national and state governments. 

But put that aside, and focus on how they’ve brought their campaign to life. 

Holiday here this year. 

Clear, simple message. 

There’s that nice little rhyming of here, and year. Even with an Aussie accent – hee-ah, yee-ah, it still works. 

Rhymes are good to make messages more memorable.

Tone of voice - nailed it

And the tone of voice in the writing is absolutely spot on. Sometimes you evaluate a piece of copy and know the copywriter nailed it.

Check these for example :-

There’s never been a better – or more important – time to get out and explore Australia. From chasing thrills on an epic wilderness adventure to unearthing secret city spots, it’s time to rediscover what makes this place so spectacular. 

Australia is still the safe and unforgettable destination it always has been. When the time is right, make your dream trip Down Under a reality. Use the tabs below to find out about COVID safe travel in Australia.*

It’s upbeat and positive. Look at those words – thrills, epic, spectacular, unforgettable. Doesn’t everyone one want, in fact, need those things right now? Plus, from a technical point of view, there’s that nice alliteration on secret city spots. 

But then, it’s also not insensitive or irresponsible – safe, when the time is right, find out about safe travel. Whoever wrote this did a nice job getting the balance right. It sits nicely between between creative appeal and doing the right thing. 

It’s a great way to encourage people to rediscover what’s on their doorstep. 

And it helps that Tourism Australia have such a wonderful “product” to work with as part of their marketing mix. The imagery, videos and writing about destinations, itineraries and ideas across Australia is all first rate. 

They do a fantastic job of showing off this amazing country. 

So, our little virtual tourism jaunt has definitely lifted our spirits this week. That, and the amazing Junior Masterchef. But, we’ll save our thoughts on that for another time. 

An afterthought

We initially wanted this article to cover Aussie brands in some other industries too. We had in mind a couple of well-know brands in dairy, alcohol, and snacking. But, those brands interestingly had taken much more of a low-key approach to the current pandemic. 

You have to search through the media and news sections of their websites to find any mention of the pandemic at all. Which makes us think, the corporate comms and PR teams are running the show there. If you hunt around on their social media feeds, you see the odd brand related post. But, it does seem the world of FMCG marketing is taking a very softly, softly approach to the pandemic. 

We guess with people stuck at home, people are still eating ice cream, drinking booze and eating lots of crisps and biscuits. 

So, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when people finally get to start moving around again. And those guys can’t depend on a captive and bored audience, stuck at home.  

Check out our guide on customer experience to see why you need to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Or, contact us if there’s a specific customer experience problem you need help with. 

Photo Credit 

Qantas Photo by John Kappa ツ on Unsplash

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