Even though they are barely known in the West, trip.com (formerly Ctrip) are the biggest travel agency in China with about a million daily active users and almost 50% of their customers from overseas. Though the latter changed dramatically with the pandemic, of course, they are still the number one in China. Their ambition is to become the number one globally before 2025. And it seems that they are well on their way, as they are close to overshadowing both booking.com or Expedia.
I’ve become fascinated with this fast growing company over the years, especially since I visited them several times with our nexxworks Innovation Tours. That’s why I decided to ask my nexxworks business Partner and China keynote speaker Pascal Coppens about what makes them so special, and what we can exactly learn from them. Here’s what I learned from him:
Have A Strong Experience-Driven Purpose
Trip.com’s purpose goes further than just offering convenient travel products. They see it as their purpose to make travel a smooth, fun and educational experience. Travel in the West is either business-related or fun, but Chinese people want to be guided into an entertainment and educational environment. And you feel that through their entire app and all their services.
A great example is that they offer lessons – in their offices or in the app – for the Chinese on how to behave overseas and improve their way of traveling with respect for the local environment and culture. And they will enable their community to learn from each other as well, allowing them to share tips and tricks in the app.
Use Data For Good (For The Customer)
Trip.com is extremely tech driven. Much more than its popular counterparts. But what’s special about that is that they offer quite a radical promise to their customers, one of honesty and transparency.
What Pascal meant by that was that they thoroughly rely on data and feedback and AI algorithms to get to the heart of what customers want in order to give them a fantastic experience.
But at the same time, the promise they make is that they will never abuse this data. It’s about creating a culture of trust between them and their users. If a person has more money, they will never recommend the most expensive hotels, unless they feel and know that they would want that. And if you’re on a super tight budget, they will recommend very low budget hotels that still are ok in terms of quality.
Everything in the app, too, is in the open. It’s basically like a completely transparent Chinese menu without any hidden things and very clear conditions. And what’s also impressive is that they use the data they have to help their partners – hotels, transportation, insurance, restaurants etc. – offer their customers a better experience as well.
They might tell them about safety, and the importance of traveling in smaller groups. Or tell them that they need to offer a water cooker and slippers in their rooms, because Chinese people find this really important. The insights from their data helps their partners make better choices so the end-customer has the best experience. At the end of the day, even if their partners are very important, they will always pick the side of the customer.
According to Pascal the great difference between tech driven companies in the West and in China, is that the former use the tech to optimize while in China the tech is more often used to give a better experience. It’s an enhancer, as is the case with trip.com.
Think Like A Superapp
Travel has so many facets, and it seems that trip.com tackles them all. It makes perfect sense from a CX point of view, actually: it’s a real hassle to reserve a hotel somewhere, then book air travel, then look for a car to lease, then find a provider for your travel insurance when you have to move in different websites and apps. So imagine how much smoother the ride is for the customer if (s)he can do all of those things within the confines of one app, which is exactly what trip.com does.
Not only do they offer about 60 different products, like hotels, air transportation, trains, busses, medical travel and even an exclusive niche product like a 200.000 dollar tour around the world, but their app has an incredible amount of functionalities as well. It’s in fact really a superapp, like WeChat, but specifically focused on the travel industry: from applying for a visa to Thailand, to insurance, to borrowing money, get vouchers or tax redemptions, trip.com helps you with all of them.
Always Solve The Problem
The travel sector is a very emotional industry: people really want their holiday or their business trip to be perfect. Most of us (unless there is an emergency) won’t be bothered much if an Amazon package arrives two days later, but if there is an issue with air travel or our ride share is late to bring us to a business meeting from the hotel, we get very frustrated. And so trip.com is very much focused on being ultraconvenient and on solving problems.
A beautiful example is their fantastic customer service. No matter where you are, at what time, someone will always pick up the phone within 20 seconds. Despite the fact that more than 90% of their service solutions are software chatbots, they still have more than 10,000 employees picking up phones 24/7 anywhere in the world.
They’re fast, friendly and will do anything to help you. Pascal once called them when he had 5 minutes left to cancel a room and they made that happen, no questions asked. This “people helping people” approach has always been at the heart of their offering, according to him. But they also integrate these interactions in their data so as to make their app, chatbots and services even better at the same time. Everything is measured and then the learnings are integrated back into the offering.
A great example of their speed of reaction and excellent service is how they messaged all travelers who were in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting to help them get flights out of the city instantly. And they also organize community group chats for travelers in the same city so they can help each other out, for instance when someone forgot something at a hotel.
Treat Your Employees Like Your Customers
You know that I’m a big believer in the fact that happy employees result in happy customers. So it was great to hear Pascal talk about how a CX leader like trip.com does everything in their power to offer a great employee experience as well. Jane Sun, the CEO of trip-com, for instance is a big advocate of diversity and female empowerment and she makes sure that 50% of the workforce are women.
They also do everything they can to make life easier for employees who want to get pregnant (where other companies are often stressed about this). They don’t want them to have to choose between children and their career. In fact, they want every employee to feel good and empowered: team spirit is for instance continuously stimulated with awards and other incentives.