by Anth Hynes
After some lockdown restrictions have been eased, the leisure travel industry is showing signs of a rebound. Restored optimism tied to that and vaccine rollouts across the globe have provided some sense of renewed energy for the industry. We are in a significantly different place from where we were before the pandemic due to a shift in consumer behaviors, however. We’re seeing the emergence of vaccine passports, greater demand for safety and hygiene, and more flexible payment and cancellation options. The B2C payments industry is rising to meet these new challenges and has a clear focus on enhancing the customer experience. How the B2B payments industry will adapt to change in practices and processes is less clear.
However, now more than ever, B2B payments need to help elevate the customer experience for travel intermediaries. Slow, inefficient, complex technological solutions or outdated manual payment processes are a problem for not just the travel agent, but for the traveler themselves. Travel agents who adopt and partner with innovative and reliable B2B payments suppliers, will ultimately enhance the experience of the end travel consumer.
With Global Customer Experience Day being celebrated this week, it's useful to consider the role that B2B payments can play in aiding the wider recovery of the travel industry.
Enhance the choices you give your travel customers
Providing a wide range of easy, accessible choices is critical to creating the best customer experience. Travel agencies should prioritize expanding their payment options as part of this practice of providing choices. The broader the choice of payments offered to consumers, the better the customer experience, and the higher your conversion rates. The efficacy of this practice becomes most apparent when the customer’s tried and true payment method is in the mix.
Instead of travel agencies convincing their suppliers to accept multiple forms of payment, instead, they should simplify the way suppliers are paid, to mitigate any concerns about acceptance. For example, a universally accepted payment, such as virtual crds or ‘Virtual Account Numbers’ (VANs), can integrate easily with existing booking and property management. Suppliers are paid with a 16-digit number, regardless of the consumer payment type received by the OTA. Not only is this fast and easy, but it also benefits travel suppliers by reducing the risk of fraudulent card transactions.
In addition, innovative B2B payment providers such as WEX, can offer multiple card schemes, payment types, currencies, issuing and settlement locations – giving travel companies optimal choice and flexibility, which in turn can be passed on to the end customer.
Unlocking efficiencies: Return resources to the end-customer
The more administrative efforts required to manage supplier network and payments processes, the more resources will then need to be diverted away from value-add activities. Travel businesses concerned with stabilizing business volumes will consider tackling this resource drain a priority.
Travel intermediaries who've invested in their B2B payments processes will be able to resolve this more readily than those who haven't. By using end-to-end payment solutions that are based off automation and leading technology, travel agencies experience greater efficiencies, benefit from automated back-end payment processes and mitigate against the risks that manual, cash-based payment systems present. In turn, the efficiencies and resources found in digital adoption can be then leveraged to help elevate the end-customer experience.
WEX’s research in partnership with ‘The Economist’ showed that 86 percent of those surveyed agree that companies that lead with technology will thrive in recovery from the current economic and health crisis and that and 83 percent have leveraged payment technology to innovate new sources of business value. These metrics are a testament to the opportunity that can come from digital payment transformation.
Payments technology can provide trust and security to customers
While consumers reduced their travel spending in 2020, fraudsters maintained their hold on the industry. Based on data from Sift’s Q1 2021 Digital Trust & Safety Index, fraud attempts increased across a range of industries, which appears to be fraudsters taking advantage of the disruption occurring due to COVID. The online travel segment alone saw a 20% increase in fraud attempts. This, in turn, has heightened the need for travel agencies to lean on their payments providers for protection and security. Travel agencies need to be able to reassure their customers that there's nothing to fear, and get them back to traveling.
Once again, this is where B2B payments have a crucial role to play. The use of VANs was already on the rise pre-pandemic, and demand is accelerating as its benefits help travel companies build trust among their customers. VANs offer an attractive alternative to traditional cards and have fraud prevention features. For example, VANs can be set up to only be used once: even if the data is subject to a breach, the card can't be used again if the supplier has already processed the payment. In addition, with VANs, parameters can be set to control the types of purchases accepted, the maximum purchase amount, and when the purchases can be made. This ultimately helps travel intermediaries provide their customers with a safeguard against fraud by allowing only the specified charge to be processed.
Looking ahead: Prioritizing customer experience and payments
Since COVID-19, companies have needed to place a renewed focus on customer experience strategy to build meaningful relationships with their customers.
In addition to increasing efficiencies through process automation, businesses will be looking to those providers that can go the extra mile. Partners that offer flexibility, stability and assistance to businesses looking to deliver a better customer experience will be the ones that thrive in this new reality. This is done in part by adding value beyond payment processes.
Learn more about how WEX payment solutions can be tailored to your travel business, so you can accelerate and streamline operations while creating lasting growth and success for your organization.