Any call center manager will tell you good customer service agents for the travel and hospitality industry are hard to find. Why? Because strong customer service and industry-specific skills—expertise in legacy airlines reservations and global distribution systems—are no longer commonplace.
That’s due, in large part, to the proliferation of self-service booking and the disappearance of traditional travel training schools. Still, the need for white-glove customer service continues, especially for business travelers or leisure travelers with problems too complex for self-service to solve.
After 20+ years in the contact center business Working Solutions has pinpointed the secrets to managing travel and hospitality call centers. The three areas that make a difference in the service provided include the way we recruit our agents, how we develop our agents and our company culture.
1. Recruiting: Begins with finding travel agents with sought-after skills or recruiting tech-savvy ones, with leisure and hospitality experience. The job requires an empathetic, problem-solving personality.
2. Development: Then agents undergo rigorous onboarding in the client’s business and immersion in its brand in our virtual training classes at Working Solutions University (WSU). That way, when a customer calls to book a room or flight, the agent is the hotel and airline.
3. Culture: And finally, instill a strong sense of a caring work culture, knowing happy agents please clients and their customers. Complementing this strategy, our agents, who often are customers themselves, are immersed in the client’s culture, so they know the products and services firsthand—and what’s expected.
Developing world-class travel agents is industry-specific and client-focused. At WSU, agents assigned to travel and hospitality programs practice customer scenarios, role-play to resolve issues and study proprietary travel/hotel applications and reservation systems, new and old.
On the job, they don’t rely on any by-rote customer service scripts. Rather, they adapt and improvise with each situation. From handling a difficult booking to ensuring white-glove service, here are a few examples of excellent service, with agents schooled in the business—from tarmac to hotel.
Flying worldwide has never been more complex given the merging of so many airlines, along with their computer systems. A fact well known to Louise, a travel agent we recruited for her decades of experience on the corporate side.
For example, a customer booked business-class travel to Europe, requiring international transfers in a multi-leg trip. The foreign airline in charge of the second leg, however, couldn’t find his reservation.
Louise tried for hours to fix the problem, but couldn’t. The reservations systems weren’t communicating with each other. The customer ended up flying coach for the remaining three legs of his journey.
Later, the customer sent Louise an email, asking for a full refund. First, Louise reached out to the domestic airline for help, but didn’t like the answer she got.
Not willing to take “no,” she contacted the foreign airline and found a sympathetic ear there. Her efforts resulted in a partial customer refund and travel voucher for future flights.
When it comes to travel, agent Beth knows the ins and outs—and those turbulent customer service ups and down.
With more than a decade of development at Working Solutions and 20 years total in the industry, she’s handled thousands of bookings and countless passenger calls, navigating disparate airline reservation systems around the world.
So it didn’t shake her much when she received a frantic customer call, right before her shift ended one night. Problem: A flight delay would cause the traveler to miss his connection.
Beth booked an alternate flight with the same carrier. Knowing the reservation went through a foreign airline using a different system, she anticipated there could be a bump along the way. So she stayed on the line.
Her instincts were right. After trying to confirm the flight change with the connecting airline, none was found—even though a ticket number had been issued. Neither airline took responsibility or offered a solution.
Even though her shift ended, Beth didn’t give up. She stayed on the line, getting everyone together over the phone to work things out. The result: Happy customer who arrived as planned.
Being immersed in the cultures of our clients enables our agents to be the brand.
In the travel business for 16 years, Cheryl knows a thing or two about representing the client’s brand when booking hotel reservations.
“I have customers calling me about 2,000 different hotels. So when I answer, as far as the customer is concerned, I am the hotel. The customer never knows the difference.”
She says to be good at this job, an agent must do the research and use all the tools. Although much of the hotel information is preloaded on the system, customers inevitably ask about something that isn’t there.
“That’s when you have to be quick on your feet and resourceful.”
At the end of the day, the real secrets to customer management in the travel and hospitality industry are about strategic thinking and hard work. You have to first recruit the best, develop them and, finally, provide a culture in which they can succeed.
Producing world class, industry-specific contact center agents is what we do best at Working Solutions. Let’s talk today about how we can partner with you to ensure your contact center is optimized and efficient for success.