When the COVID pandemic struck, working practices changed for millions. Offices were closed and corporate travel was at a standstill, as virtual networks replaced physical networking.
Fast forward two years and while lockdowns are beginning to ease and conferences and other industry events have begun their tentative comeback, COVID has marked a significant step change. In the wake of the pandemic, hybrid and smart working practices have gained considerable momentum. What started as a need is fast becoming a preference as companies and individuals alike consider the necessity of their business travel. While employees have realised that they’re able to maintain high levels of effectiveness while working from home, employers have spied an opportunity to permanently slash the corporate-travel budget.
With travel becoming a more considered purchase, the resultant market contraction is changing the competitive landscape.
As they vie for a slice of a substantially smaller pie, travel companies are under pressure to improve their offerings and pass those improvements on to customers in the form of more efficient and high-quality customer experiences. After all, if customers are travelling and buying from you less often, they may be more discerning – after all, they’re not doing it regularly enough that the time involved in looking for better deals each time becomes a hassle. Doing it less often may make them more inclined to look elsewhere. This means you need to provide a better experience each time they do, and nowhere more so than at the payments stage.
The power of payments
Research has shown that outdated and inefficient payment processes undermined the customer experience.
Payments are the ‘last hurdle’ in the online customer experience and problems here cause much frustration, with 65% of those surveyed agreeing that digital payment problems create unnecessary stress for customers. Problems range from having to wait for refunds, needing to find additional information or a card to pay with and being transferred away from a website to make payment. More than half have stopped buying from a specific brand because of poor payment experiences
And what’s the consumer response to these payment pain points? 44% of people say they simply abandon the transaction. Our survey shows that digital payment problems have an emotional impact; with 71% of consumers surveyed saying the payment experience can ‘make or break’ their future relationship with a brand. 72% say outdated and inefficient payment processes can undermine their experience as a customer and the tolerance threshold is low, with 78% agreeing that there is no excuse for online brands to have outdated, inefficient payment processes.
In payments we trust
Trust is the cornerstone of any customer relationship and there is much to be gained from investing in your payments platform - 77% say they are more likely to trust a brand that invests in modern, customer-friendly payments processes. And 53% say that a trusted payments experience would encourage them to use the online service provider again and reward them with their loyalty.
And what are the elements of a convenient yet trusted payments experience? Our research shows that these include instant payments (53%), instant notifications (51%) and ease of use (45%). These fuel loyalty and increase both spend and the likelihood that your customers will recommend you.
The key to increasing speed and efficiency is to make sure your systems are properly joined up, automated and in-sync, and to replace manual, error-prone and time-consuming processes with real-time, responsive digital ones. Incorporating embedded financial services can also go a long way to delivering a payment experience that is both convenient and easy to use.
In the new era of Open Banking, traditional banks no longer have ownership and control of payment processes. Partnering with the right FinTech can help travel companies to integrate innovative and secure payment services into their propositions that will deliver an unbeatable experience for customers.
For example, having Faster Payments plumbed into your tech stack allows you and your customers to send and receive money in near real-time, with immediate confirmations; delivering both speed and transparency. By partnering with a provider who is a direct participant of the Faster Payments service, such as Modulr, you’ll be able to process payments securely and efficiently, while they take on the regulatory and operational task of plugging into the scheme.
While Payment Initiation enables travel companies to redirect customers to their bank or building society so they can make one-off payments smoothly and efficiently. This functionality, when combined with easily reconciled dedicated customer accounts, can also be reversed to send payments back to the customer's account in real-time, for easy refund processing. This not only improves the ongoing relationship with customers by building loyalty and trust, it also addresses the most commonly-cited payment pain-point frustrating 64% of those surveyed - having to wait for refunds.
So, FinTech-enabled payments services have the potential to radically transform the way companies and individuals buy travel services and, when used together, they can deliver the convenient, easy to use experiences of the digital yet discerning traveller’s dreams.