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Modern CX is long overdue in the passenger transport industry

A travel boom is upon us. Airlines, cruise companies and rail services need to refresh their CX if they want to cash in and create loyal customers for life.

By Sarah Olson, Staff Writer

Last updated March 21, 2023

Weary travellers who’ve been cooped up since COVID-19 are hungry for adventure in 2023.

Despite economic uncertainty, 73% of people surveyed by are more optimistic about travel than they were in 2022 and half say that investing in a holiday is a top priority.

73% of people are more optimistic about travel than they were in

This travel boom is an opportunity for airlines, cruise companies and rail services to gain a foothold with high lifetime value customers.

But to make a good impression, passenger transport companies need to take an honest look at their customer experience and prioritise what changes are needed to modernise their experience for the next generation of sightseers, holidaymakers, business travellers and digital nomads.

Read on for CX tips and best practice in the passenger transport industry.

CX challenges in the passenger transport industry

Customers have had to contend with a lot recently:

Meanwhile, staffing challenges and rising costs have put pressure on travel companies to deliver the same high-quality experiences with fewer staff and resources.

The passenger transport industry is facing a few key challenges, including:

  • Staff shortages: Like most industries, transport companies have struggled to restaff crews and customer service teams to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Digital channels lagging: Many companies are still stuck in the telephone and email world, with poor experiences and long wait times that frustrate customers and agents alike.
  • Balancing the budget: With fluctuating fuel and supply chain costs, transport companies must cut costs in other areas while striving to deliver high-quality customer service.

These challenges have resulted in an urgent need for digital transformation in the travel industry. Investment in modern CX tools like messaging and self-service can help ease passengers’ pain points and encourage more return customers in 2023 and beyond.

3 ways that modernising CX can increase ROI

Modernising CX, 2 buses
  1. Increase customer loyalty and lifetime value by connecting with customers on the channels they prefer

    According to Expedia, millennials travel more than any other generation and Gen Z are close behind. Younger generations are more digitally savvy and they expect to be able to message with companies on the apps and platforms they already use.
    Spanish cruise line Baleària was among the first early adopters to send boarding passes on WhatsApp, fully embracing the shift toward social media and digital channels.

    “We are taking steps to convert the traditional call centre that we had, which handled calls and emails, into a more modern and agile contact centre through an omnichannel strategy with Zendesk.”Alessandro Zollino, Director of Customer Experience at Baleària

    Another example is Azerbaijan Airlines, which successfully upgraded to an omnichannel solution with Zendesk and now receives 60% of its requests by email and WhatsApp. Since making the change, the airline’s customer satisfaction score is 10 points higher than the industry average.
    Legacy tools are especially cumbersome for mobile phone users. Most millennials research and book travel on their smartphone, but 86% aren’t happy with their mobile travel booking experience.
    One way you can be more mobile friendly is by using Zendesk SDKs to add messaging to your web, mobile and social channels. That way, if a passenger has a quick question before, during or after a trip, your customer service team can step in and help them find the answers they need, from reservation to destination.
  2. Customise your workspace so you can build for productivity and scale while keeping costs down

    Outdated technology means that customer service agents have to work harder to track down information and troubleshoot problems. This slows down response times and annoys customers who are used to more advanced features from consumer brands.
    Modern CX solutions allow you to customise workflows and build your own apps, so you can do more with less effort and deliver smarter interactions at scale. Integrating core business applications like loyalty programmes and seat selection into your support platform saves time and helps agents turn interactions into revenue-generating opportunities.
    Zendesk worked with Ryanair, Europe’s largest low fare airline, to bring its legacy systems into the modern era and scale to reach its ambition of serving 225 million passengers annually.

    “Our goal with this new customer service initiative is to drive efficiency, offer innovation for customers and create a single platform for customer support. We are very pleased with Zendesk and believe that we are getting good value out of our investment.”
    Tracy Kennedy, Director of Customer Service at Ryanair

    In just six months, the airline implemented a single-platform, omnichannel support solution across 38 countries, making significant operational cost savings in the process.
    In fact, 67% of customers are willing to pay more for a great experience and transport companies can capitalise on this by making their service more specific and personalised.
    Use Zendesk’s API to integrate data from external systems like SABRE, Amadeus, Travelport and Versonix, as well as loyalty programmes and baggage systems. With customer history and context readily available, agents can personalise passenger engagement, quickly answer questions, deliver proactive support and identify opportunities for upselling.
  3. Create efficiencies so you can remain agile in an ever-changing environment

    The transport industry has been hit hard by market changes in the pandemic era. Modernising your technology makes it easier to respond to changes in real-time, without requiring digital transformations that take several years to implement. With Zendesk, you can start seeing value in months instead of years.
    With the growing travel boom, CX teams need to think about adapting internal processes so they can keep up with this increasing demand.
    Implementing a more robust CX platform like Zendesk means that you can build time-saving workflows for agents and automate repetitive, low-value tasks.
    Improving the agent experience is especially important as the transport industry struggles to restaff teams to their pre-pandemic levels. Giving your employees the tools they need to do their jobs well and be more productive can take some of the pressure off overworked teams.

    “If we were still using the tools that our company had before implementing Zendesk, even 100 staff members would not be enough to handle the current workload.”Anar Aliyev, AZAL Public Relations Specialist

    Self-service is another efficiency driver. With self-service help centres and chatbots, you can empower customers to find answers to their own questions – most of which are routine, standard issues like cancelling, rebooking, tracking luggage and crediting earned miles.
    You can add customised interactive apps – like seat/cabin selection, in-message upgrades/add-ons and SSR widgets – to take self-service one step further. Low-code and no-code tools make it quick and easy to deploy new applications, independent of underlying infrastructure.Airlines CX screenshots
    Ryanair’s self-service strategy combines a robust search function with a smart chatbot to help customers find information quickly and easily. 80% of customers find the answers they need without contacting a customer support agent.
    Similarly, AZAL has been able to stem the tide of incoming tickets with a robust help centre that receives more than 9,000 views per month.

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