How Do the World’s Largest Travel Companies Deliver Customer Support?
By Can Ozdoruk
Wednesday, 2nd June 2021

In our most comprehensive study yet, we’re seeing how airlines, hotels and resorts, online travel agencies, cruise lines, car rental companies, rail and bus companies, and venue and event spaces stack up.

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our latest Customer Service Benchmark Report! In this version, we’re digging deep into how 3,000 of the world’s largest and most well-known travel and hospitality companies provide email and social support.

We found that travel and hospitality brands are failing to meet the expectations of guests for effortless, quick support across their channel of choice. Surprisingly 55% of companies don’t have Twitter profiles, 38% of companies do not offer email support.

Shockingly, the companies that have email addresses or enable direct messaging on Twitter often completely ignore their customers: 70% of emails and 46% of social messages are never responded to.

Even if companies respond, customers are left with unanswered questions: 97% of email responses do not provide a meaningful, thorough answer, compared to 72% of responses on Twitter.

Here’s the highlights from our Customer Service Benchmark Report – Travel and Hospitality edition:

  1. Omnichannel is rare: Only 12% of companies offer support on both channels
  2. Email and social support is hard to find: 38% of companies don’t offer email support and 55% of companies don’t have a Twitter profile.
  3. Customers are ignored: Nearly 70% of all emails are ignored and 46% of direct messages on social media are never responded to.
  4. Travel companies are not empathetic: Only 11% of travel and hospitality companies show empathy in email responses and 26% don’t show any empathy on social media support.
  5. Email response times are fast; social responses are even faster: Of the companies that respond, 57% of travel companies that prioritize email respond within the first 3 hours and more than 1 in 5 companies respond to direct messages within the first 15 minutes.
  6. Responses are not thorough: 97% of email responses do not provide a meaningful answer in the initial email response and 72% of companies don’t provide a relevant response on social media.
  7. Larger companies provide faster support on social compared to email: The largest travel and hospitality companies (5,000+ employees) were the slowest responders on email, with an average response time of over 27 hours, but the quickest on Twitter, responding to social messages in 5.8 hours, on average.
  8. The largest companies are the slowest on email: The largest travel and hospitality companies (5,000+ employees) were the slowest responders on email, with an average response time of over 27 hours.
  9. Response times differ around the world: Travel and hospitality companies based in North America have the fastest response times on Twitter, responding, on average, in just under 13 hours, while companies in Latin America are the slowest (average 27 hours).
  10. Personalization is lacking: 28% of companies did not respond to a customer by their first name in email responses or on social media.

(Download the infographic in a PDF format)

Email Support Benchmarks: How do the world’s biggest travel and hospitality companies provide email customer service?

The average Email Support Performance Index (Email-SPI), which looks holistically at the response including personalization, empathy, relevance, CSAT survey and response time, was 52.7 out of a possible 100 points. When we look at the largest 25 travel companies in the world, the best performers on the Email-SPI were United Airlines (US, 65.58); Marriott International (US, 61.24), Booking.com (US, 58.92), and Intercontinental Hotels Group (US, 57.83).

Travel brands recognize the importance of quick responses: 32% respond to emails within the first hour; 57% respond within the first three hours; and nearly 85% respond within the first 24 hours. The fastest responders (2 minutes) were: Falkensteiner Hotels & Residences (Austria), Flughafen Wien – Vienna Airport (Austria) and Johnson’s Beach & Resort (United States). Interestingly, the largest travel and hospitality companies (5,000+ employees) were the slowest responders on email, with an average response time of over 27 hours.

Here are the average email response times by industry:

  • Ground Transportation companies (trains, busses, car rentals): 9.20 hrs
  • Venues and event spaces: 9.64 hrs
  • Hotels and resorts: 12.43 hours
  • Travel agencies: 12.53 hrs
  • Airlines – 16.36 hrs
  • Cruise lines: 23.16 hrs

In the email to travel and hospitality companies in our study, the customer referenced concerns about booking a reservation due to uncertainties around COVID-19. Of the companies that responded to emails, only 11% showed empathy by acknowledging a customer’s concern over COVID-19’s potential impact on their travel plans. The most empathetic companies are Trident Hotels, Sleeping Bear Bed Breakfast, Longwood Gardens, ITC Hotels and AERO.

Social Support Benchmarks: How do the world’s biggest travel and hospitality companies provide customer service on Twitter?

The average Social Support Performance Index (SPI), which measures a response by personalization, empathy, relevance, if there is an automated message acknowledging a message, and resolution time, is 50.88 (out of 100). The companies that provide the best overall support on social media are: Spirit Airlines (Airline, US) and Almosafer (Online Travel Agency, Saudia Arabia).

Shockingly, 27% of the world’s largest 25 travel and hospitality brands fail to ever acknowledge a customer’s message on Twitter. The best performers on the Social SPI include American Airlines (69.5), Lufthansa (69.17), Air India (68.83), Southwest Airlines (67.17), Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (67.17), Emirates Airline (66.28) and Hilton (65.61).

Travel and hospitality companies are responding quickly to direct messages on Twitter, with 22% responding within the first 15 minutes, 36% within the first hour, and a whopping 66% within the first six hours. The fastest respondents on Twitter got back to customers within one minute — Address Hotels + Resorts (UAE), Network Rail (UK), Ryanair (Ireland), SpiceJet (India), and Royal Caribbean Cruises (US).

The companies with the most employees (5,000+) are the quickest, responding to social messages in 5.8 hours, on average. Mid-size companies, on the contrary, are 4.3X slower to respond, with an average response time of nearly 25 hours.

Here are the average social response times by industry:

  • Airlines – 8.52 hrs
  • Ground transportation companies (traines, busses, car rentals): 9.93 hrs
  • Cruise lines: 12.87 hrs
  • Hotels and resorts: 19.82 hours
  • Travel agencies: 21.62 hrs
  • Venues and event spaces: 77.61 hrs

Travel companies need to prioritize omnichannel customer support

Travelers expect to be able to reach out on their preferred channel to get a meaningful and thorough response quickly. In an industry where airplane / train / bus seats, hotel rooms or cabins, and rental cars are remarkably similar, travel brands will increasingly compete on the customer experience they provide. In our study we found that overall, the customer service provided by the world’s largest travel and hospitality companies fails to meet the expectations of the modern customer.

Download our full Customer Service Benchmark Report – Travel and Hospitality for the complete results!

Can Ozdoruk, VP of Marketing

Can has been in SaaS Marketing since getting his MBA from USC. He worked in enterprises, i.e., Nvidia as well as startups like PerimeterX. He advises early-stage startups and publishes frequently. His insights on customer service and the benefits AI can provide the industry have been featured in publications like Retail Next, CustomerThink, G2, and Clutch.

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