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

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Snapshot : Time for a change of scene? How Qantas and Tourism Australia are keeping at least the thought of travel and tourism open while pandemic restrictions are still in place. In terms of customer experience, travel and tourism are still surviving. 

As the global pandemic slowly grinds the world into tired, Zoom-eyed submission and we are all mostly stuck round our home areas like children on the naughty step, we needed a change of (virtual) scene this week. 

So, we spent a bit of time 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 now, under all the restrictions that are in place.

Customer experience – travel and tourism

Travel and tourism as a service-led industry is built on great customer experience. Back in the days (last year) when we could go to CX and marketing technology conferences and events, you could be sure there’d be plenty of representation on the stage from businesses and organisations in that industry. 

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.

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 managing to limp along with limited domestic flights and the severely scaled down international business, it’s had to let go 20% of its staff and 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. 

But, with most people not even thinking about flights and travel at the moment, we wanted to check out the current customer experience you get when you visit their site.

How different is it from “before”?

How have they adapted themselves to the current reality?

What’s the story you find at qantas.com?

Customer experience - Qantas homepage

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

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

Good start.

And next you read all their links up to all their other “services” like hotels, shopping, wine, money and insurance. And somewhere at Qantas the teams behind these services are still working given the amount of emails we seem to get from them. 

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

Though we do wish their data analysis was better. They might have picked up that our non-response to their daily emails means we aren’t really a high potential customer, and they could ease off on the frequency. 

Scroll down the home page, and they’ve been on the ball enough to add updates about changed circumstances to New Zealand, and domestic flights. 

Again, good.

It shows they are on top of the latest events.

Customers need to know that. 

And then, the rest of the content on the home page 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 overall. 

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. So when this whole Covid-19 thing finally runs it course, there’s an opportunity for Qantas to ignite that reconnection. 

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

Customer experience was what we wanted to focus on. And that’s usually a but more practical than emotional, anyway. 

So, let’s imagine we did need to fly.

How is 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 on flight availability feels distinctly weird. Like wearing old clothes that have gone slightly out of fashion. Familiar, but don’t quite feel right. 

We looked at two hypothetical trips that were the pandemic not still on, we might want to make. One to London. And one to Adelaide. So, one international. And one domestic.

And it slightly surprised us, that getting from Sydney to London was actually quite 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 Quantas 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 place to Australia. 

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

We didn’t go much further than this given we have no intent 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.

We spotted 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.

Which we understand why they’d include it. There will be circumstances they just can’t control. And, we imagine people who have had to fly being stressed and frustrated.

But when you read this, it does put you off anything other than flying in extraordinary circumstances. 

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 that 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.

Customer experience - Tourism Australia home page

Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia’s an interesting brand to look at. 

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

Though, the long-term ROI on that campaign’s been destroyed by the pandemic. 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 got to the Tourism Australia page, the customer experience gets even better. 

There’s a banner at the top of the page and a box on the home page, box about Covid-19 and what it means for travel and tourism. The fact 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 is a bit confusing. 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 read a piece of copy and see that the copywriter nailed it.

Check these two examples 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?

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 between creating 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 their media and news sections 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 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.  

Credit : Photo by John Kappa ツ on Unsplash

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