4 Tips to Improve Customer Service in Travel and Tourism
The quality of customer care is important for any company—and not just for its reputation, but also for its bottom line. According to Zendesk, 42% of B2C consumers will make more purchases from a business after receiving a “good customer service experience.” And Forrester has spent years documenting the correlation between a company’s revenue growth and the quality of the customer experience it offers.
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And valuable as it is, great customer care is even more important in some industries than in others. The travel industry is a great example of this. In an era when travelers have more convenient and inexpensive booking options than ever before, offering premium customer service in travel and tourism is a key opportunity to differentiate a business and set it apart from the competition.
At Working Solutions, we’ve long worked with travel and tourism business leaders, offering them the chance to leverage our decades of experience providing outsourced contact center solutions to improve their customer service profile. And we’ve taken the highlights from that work to offer some tips for travel companies to make sure they’re offering the best possible customer experience (CX).
4 Tips to Improve Customer Service in Travel and Tourism
Customer Service Tip #1: Let Customers Skip Automation and Connect with Real People
In a tech-dominated era, one of the methods for ensuring great customer care is balancing automated services (websites, email autoresponders and chatbots) with the ability to access live agents when an inquiry goes beyond basic needs. Our chief executive Kim Houlne refers to this customer service approach as knowing when to let intelligent agents (IA) pick up where artificial intelligence (AI) leaves off.
And that point is particularly important when it comes to customer service in travel and tourism. More than most other industries, customers who contact you want to talk to an agent, not a chatbot.
This bucks conventional wisdom, somewhat: As Doug Gollan has pointed out at Forbes, the prediction in the 1990s that the travel agent would soon be obsolete has proven false. Thanks to the escalating challenges of modern-day travel—fuller flights, greater security concerns and other issues—demands for live travel agents have actually increased.
“Multiple research surveys show consumer use of retail travel agents–real human beings, has been on the rise for at least five years and is strongest with Millennials,” Gollan adds. He then goes on to cite other experts who note that younger customers are “very comfortable paying for expertise,” and value real agents who can “help them improve the quality of their travel experiences.”
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“Simple tasks, such as the booking routine flights, can be done easily by anyone online these days,” as Working Solutions’ April Wiita, vice president of Program Success, points out. “It’s when complications set in—travel becomes far-flung or flights get interrupted—that proven travel expertise is required.”
Customer Service Tip #2: Employ Agents with Real Expertise
Take note of that last word in April’s sentence: expertise. It stands to reason that when consumers do feel the need to go beyond automated services to connect with someone on your customer service team, they expect that person to have a fairly high level of expertise.
Remember, consumers in the travel and tourism industry are typically fairly savvy. Before they contact you, they usually have at least a rough idea of where they want to go and what they want to do What they’re looking for is some expertise to help them decide which of their options is logistically and financially feasible.
In other words, they expect to speak to experts, not to novices. They want to be connected with agents who have a high level of insight about their planned destination or activity. If they have to explain basic facts to these agents, they aren’t likely to have much confidence in their ability to book them the best possible travel arrangements.
For this reason, it’s imperative that agents offering service in the travel and tourism industry have a high level of industry expertise. They should be able to act as real travel agents in the traditional sense—agents who can help customers book the trips they want, when they want it.
April breaks down this expertise into three major areas. According to her report, based on a well-documented Working Solutions travel industry survey, successful customer service in travel and tourism requires agents who:
- Really know the “places, planes and people” they’re talking about, and preferably from experience (and not just Google searches).
- Can identify with the people who are traveling, both for business or pleasure.
- Have mastered the use of a variety of reservation systems, the complexity of which has been known to “trip up many a globe-trotting traveler.”
Customer Service Tip #3: Offer Empathy to Your Customers
For exerts as well as novices, booking travel can be a frustrating experience. Although the huge number of competing websites means there are more deals than ever before, it can be difficult to sort through it all. It’s no surprise then that customers who call you may be feeling a little stressed out.
And actual travel can be even more frustrating: Weather delays, security risks, overbooked flights, traffic jams and a myriad of other all-too-common factors often create an environment in which travelers are on edge and uncertain. Again, then, when they call you, they may already be tense, if not downright emotionally exhausted.
It’s important, then, for your agents to speak with as much compassion and empathy as possible. That’s true in any industry, too, with customer service data showing that speaking to customers with friendliness and patience can yield major rewards. According to a data from RightNow Technologies, 73% of consumers say that friendly service is a deciding factor in “falling in love” with a brand.
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This is a big reason why travel agents are starting to refer to themselves as “travel advisors.” It’s partially because they believe that “travel agent” is something of an outdated term, but also because “advisor” is a word that better highlights “the emphasis on building relationships with travelers and being empathetic throughout the entire experience.” (Check out our infographic on customer service in travel and tourism for more details.)
Customer Service Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Bring in Expert Assistance
Offering customer care that not only meets all of the above criteria but that’s also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—including during times of particularly high utilization—is no small challenge. For that reason, many businesses operating in travel and tourism are now choosing to outsource their customer care operations to on-demand contact center service providers like Working Solutions.
Doing so immediately gives businesses access to a network of skilled agents who aren’t just experts in customer service for travel and tourism, but who also in universal skills, such as tech-savviness, upselling and ensuring overall customer satisfaction.
On top of that, Working Solutions has a demonstrated track record of providing exceptional customer service in travel and tourism. Many of our leaders have worked directly in travel before joining our team. Our work documenting travel-related trends has been cited by industry media, including Travel Weekly.
Beyond travel-specific accolades, we have a CSAT customer satisfaction score that’s 13% higher than the industry average. And if you need more incentive, we’re standing by to provide it.
Contact us here to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Working Solutions expert and take the first step to creating a better experience for your customers.Contact us here.