John O’Neill, Managing Director & Senior Strategy Consultant, Komosion
John O’Neill is the Managing Director of Komosion, an agency which specialises in Customer Experience Strategy, Design and Delivery. The company brings its unique experience to a range of industries, including the travel industry, and has worked with businesses like Flight Centre, Accor and boutique hotel group Lancemore.
Ahead of John’s presentation at The Travel Industry Exhibition & Conference, he sat down with us to discuss how customer centricity and digital disruption are transforming the travel industry.
Interview highlights include:
- John’s unique insights on customer experience in the travel industry
- How digital disruption is changing customer experiences
- John’s reflections on his role in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
What does ‘perfect customer service’ mean to you? What does it mean to the travel industry? The travel industry is outstanding at customer service, it has to be. Customers must feel like they matter. Perfect service is getting a cool glass of water just before you realised you were thirsty; it’s feeling carefully attended to. This is the lifeblood of the industry and the reason customers will stay loyal.
In this day and age of disruption, how can a customer experience help or hurt a travel brand? Placing the customer at the centre of any business is de rigueur these days – the brand is the experience you have as a customer. With the intense competition in the travel industry, including online transparency of pricing, ratings and reviews, customers have more power than ever; and they’re prepared to wield it. In the age of digital disruption, brands are much more about ‘lived experience’ than ‘perceived experience’, and customer loyalty is much shallower.
What are the most important leadership qualities in a company suffering the effects of disruption? Being prepared to look at your business from the outside in. You must stand in the shoes of your customer and ask: ‘Am I really giving them value and an experience, above a transaction?’ Work out how and where you want to be different – what you want to be famous for – and be single-minded about that. If you could start again with a blank slate, how you might be doing it differently today? If you would be doing it differently then you probably need to find a way to change, regardless of the challenges.
What are some unexpected benefits of providing excellent customer service in the digital space? The customer satisfaction and appreciation – it’s empowering for you, your staff and provides validation of choice for those prospective customers. Really it is not just about the digital space. It is about the experience across the full arc of a customer journey. Digital tools and technologies just allow you to provide support in a more convenient and cost-effective manner than has been possible in the past.
When all companies in a sector are combined into one site by price aggregators, what can they do to differentiate themselves? This is where it becomes essential that you stand for something beyond price. As Simon Sinek has now famously said, people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do it. One of our clients, the boutique luxury hotel group Lancemore, aims to provide its customers “moments of bliss”. This could be as simple as dinner and wine under the stars. It’s a much more compelling proposition than just a room for the night.
How has your career informed your view on customer engagement and customer experience? Being involved in staging the biggest event in history at the time – the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – where I managed ticketing communications – was incredibly instructive. We did clever things, and we got some things wrong. One of the biggest lessons for me personally from this experience was coming to the understanding that customer experience is all about empathy.