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4 Tips to Improve Customer Service in Travel and Tourism

Improving the customer experience is essential for any company—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.” Forrester has spent years documenting the correlation between a company’s revenue growth and the quality of the customer experience it offers.

Many people walking in a crowded airport, with two women in the foreground walking with multiple suitcases

And valuable as it is, excellent customer care is even more critical in some industries than others. Travel and hospitality experiences are great examples of this. In an era when travelers have more convenient and inexpensive booking options than ever, offering premium customer service in travel and tourism is a crucial opportunity to differentiate a business and set it apart from the competition.

We’ve long worked with travel executives and tourism business leaders at Working Solutions, allowing them 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 ensure they’re offering the best possible customer experience (CX).


Customer Service Tip #1: Let Customers Skip Automation and Connect with Real People

In a tech-dominated era, having access to cutting-edge CX technology solutions is now one of the fundamentals of the customer experience. Offering excellent customer care is a balance between automated services (websites, email autoresponders, and chatbots) and access to 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 critical regarding 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. The demand for live travel agents has increased due to the escalating challenges of modern-day travel—fuller flights, more significant security concerns, and other issues.

“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,” said Gollan. He then cites other experts who note that younger customers are “very comfortable paying for expertise” and value agents who can “help them improve the quality of their travel experiences.”

“Simple tasks, such as 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

When consumers need to go beyond automated services to connect with someone on your customer service team, they expect that person to have a relatively high level of expertise. Remember, consumers in the travel and tourism industry are typically reasonably savvy. Before they contact you, they usually have a rough idea of where they want to go and what they want to do. Therefore, they’re looking for agents with excellent planning and risk management capabilities to help them decide which options are logistically and financially feasible.

In other words, they expect to speak to experts rather than novices. They want to connect with agents with 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 the best travel arrangements.

For this reason, agents having services in the travel and tourism industry must have a high level of industry expertise. In addition, 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 them.

April breaks down this expertise into three significant 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:

  • Know the “places, planes, and people” they’re talking about, preferably from experience (and not just Google searches).
  • Can identify with the people traveling, both for business and pleasure.
  • Have mastered the use of various 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 anyone, booking travel can be a frustrating experience. Although the vast number of competing websites means more deals than ever before, it’s not easy to sort through it all. So, unsurprisingly, customers who call you may feel a little stressed out.

And actual travel can be even more frustrating: Weather delays, security risks, overbooked flights, traffic jams, and many other all-too-common factors often create an environment where travelers are on edge and uncertain.

It’s essential, 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 significant rewards. According to data from RightNow Technologies, 73% of consumers say that friendly service is a deciding factor in “falling in love” with a brand. And listening to the voice of the customer is a great way to gather data and insights to help propel revenue, solve operational issues, and increase customer loyalty.

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 meets all of the above criteria and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—including during exceptionally high utilization periods – 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 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. Industry media, including Travel Weekly, have cited our work documenting travel-related trends. Is it time to think about rebooting your customer experience? Contact us today.

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