The summer months are the busiest time of the year for the travel sector. With school out and summer weather beckoning, July and August see a dramatic spike in people enjoying their well-deserved time off and heading to sunnier climes. David Potter, SVP of Business Development at Firstsource Solutions, shares his views with TravelBulletin.co.uk, on what practical measures businesses can take to manage this spike in contact, and ensure they are offering the best possible customer experience.
When it came to travel, customer service in the past would focus on pre-travel support through the selection, booking, confirmation and ticket delivery process, with either a travel agent or a telephone support service available to resolve any queries. Apart from support from ground staff at the departure point, the next service interaction would then be when in-destination representatives took over responsibility for the traveller and dealt with their issues and needs.
Today, consumer expectation for travel support extends through their entire experience – from departure, right through to arrival back home at the end of their journey. This means that travel brands need to offer a more proactive level of interaction in order to manage the expectations of their increasingly well informed and demanding customers.
In this context, the summer spike is a key time to both retain old customers and gain new ones – so it’s important that travel companies do all they can to make that all important summer holiday as smooth and seamless as possible. Getting your customer service right will be key to boosting customer loyalty, and, in turn, your bottom line.
But what practical measures can businesses take to manage this spike in contact, and ensure they are offering the best possible customer experience?
A choice of channels
Customers now have more choice than ever before to contact their brands, whether it’s via voice, email or even through chat bots – but great customer experience is essentially about offering the right mix of channels at the right time.
Indeed, advances in chat bots and artificial intelligence have made digital and self-serve communication channels popular options for brands looking to reduce costs and help as many customers as possible. They can be particularly useful for solving straightforward requests, such as enquiries over reservations. However, for more complex issues – such as last minute flight cancellations – customers will still want the comfort and reassurance of a person at the end of a phone.
It’s essential, then, that travel companies offer a mix of channels that best suit their customer base. The most successful travel retailers will also allow consumers to choose how they engage with them, rather than forcing them through certain channels.
Make the most of data
Alongside integrating new contact models to your customer service arsenal, travel businesses can also investigate where else new technology can help. Data, for example, can revolutionise how you interact with your customers by helping you to personalise your services.
Many consumers now expect businesses to know who they are and how they like to interact with them. So by giving your customer contact agents or marketers access to a history of previous interactions, you can offer a customer experience as tailored as their latest holiday. This data can also come in handy for marketing activity – such as sending promotional emails – which will help build brand affinity and loyalty.
Don’t forgot who you are
Travel is inherently an emotionally positive experience. While price and availability matters to a certain degree, consumers will choose the brands that provide the experience they value, meaning their choice of travel partner is entirely self-selecting. As a result, businesses spend a considerable amount of time and money getting their image and tone of voice right.
But this shouldn’t stop at marketing or PR. Your customer experience should be consistent with the ethos of your brand. Training contact agents at the frontline will be key to protecting and promoting your brand, and allowing them to inject fun and personality in their customer interactions will help build experiences that compliment your marketing activity.
While sales and deals will go some way in attracting new custom, fantastic customer experience is a sure fire way to build a loyal customer base that returns time and time again. By offering a wide range of channels, making the most of the data available to you, and empowering agents to offer the best experience, you can ensure your customer service won’t let you down this summer.