Long gone are the times when booking a holiday meant visiting a travel agency’s office and leaving with a bunch of leaflets and forms to fill out. Nowadays, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) go over and above to provide customers with a seamless online booking experience. Today, customers can book a holiday directly from their smartphones, anywhere in the world, but the process is not as straightforward as it seems. There are multiple points in the purchasing journey when a customer might need support.
Travelling itself has become a more complex process than what it used to be. With ever-changing security measures, different airline regulations and the fine print on various promotional offers, travel agents need to be able to provide personalised and expert advice to their customers. Customers nowadays prefer to research travel offers and destinations online- if they get in touch with your travel agency’s contact centre, it is to receive personal advice or up-to-date information on their travels.
If your contact centre agents lack the necessary training and expertise to handle these kinds of interactions, your business is bound to incur significant losses. To avoid such bleak outcomes, considering implementing one of the following strategies for optimising your contact centre’s operations:
Offer personalised customer support
In an increasingly competitive environment, the success of online travel agencies is often determined by the quality of customer service they provide. 86% of travellers today assign greater value to travel agencies’ personalised offers and customer service. Holiday makers are therefore committed to providing a satisfactory experience to even the most hard-to-please customers. The wide range of hotels, flights and itineraries travellers can choose from means that no two enquiries to your contact centre will be the same. To offer personalised customer service, it is essential for travel agents to gain an insight on the customer’s past interactions with the company.
Browsing through endless pages of travel offers can be time-consuming and frustrating. Web calling enables customers to get in touch with a business while browsing their website, without having to switch to a different platform for online communication. The solution allows for contact centre agents to provide personalised support, based on the stage of the customers’ buying journey.
By analysing the data from calls into your business, your agents can offer proactive responses to customers’ frequently asked questions and target them with suitable offers and destination suggestions.
This level of personalisation has become essential for not only travel agencies, but for all businesses aiming to enhance the capabilities of their contact centres. By having their specific needs catered to, customers are much more likely to finalise a purchase from their first interaction with an agent.
Improving contact centre efficiency with Big Data
“The travel industry has so much information about customers, yet they’re probably the biggest data under-utilizer"- Shep Hyken, author and customer service consultant.
The travel industry is a constantly-transforming field and, as such, companies need to frequently re-evaluate their strategy for optimising conversion rates. Big data can be a useful tool for contact centre managers when evaluating the barriers in the customer journey and enhancing the travel agents’ productivity.
• Digital transformation is prognosed to add $305 billion annually to the travel industry
• 14.8% of senior travel marketers use Internet of Things devices to gain insight into customers (Eye For Travel, 2017).
The information gathered from customers’ online path to purchase can help uncover key trends when it comes to customer satisfaction and barriers in the online journey. Online travel agencies operate with vast amounts of data daily. For many, it is challenging to generate customer data across multiple platforms, as they often struggle to unify the customer data generated from multiple platforms into one comprehensive resource.
A web calling solution, integrated within existing website analytics tools, empowers travel agents to gather and classify information and provide a more efficient customer service. With web calls being placed directly within the website, real-time information about the customer’s journey is available for the agent to analyse.
The additional level of security provided by data collection is also highly relevant to almost every industry nowadays, including the travel industry. Customers can be apprehensive when it comes to sharing personal details over the phone. Data collection allows contact centres to identify the source of a call and ensure the security of all communication channels. Having adopted a web calling solution, contact centres can optimise their conversion rates by offering customers a frictionless and secure voice interaction, containing all the information regarding a customer’s booking and purchasing journey.
Establish an Omnichannel Digital Presence
• Over 35% of customers expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative on any channel.
• For 57% of consumers, a fast response to an inquiry or complaint is key for a satisfactory customer experience.
• 86% of shoppers are regularly channel-hopping across at least two channels
As customers become more tech-savvy, they expect businesses to be super responsive across multiple communication channels. An omni-channel strategy allows for travel companies to provide value to their customers through digital platforms, while still maintaining personalised interactions. The customers’ propensity to buy is determined to a large extent by the ease of interactions with a company. Consequentially, travel contact centres today operate an average of five or more digital and voice channels. Whether through a web call, web chat or a social media messaging platform, travel contact centres can become a part of the customers’ online journey. Provided the increased competition between travel service providers, the best way for agents to incentive customers to make a purchase is by engaging on their preferred platform.
Invest in agent training
Needless to say, in order to respond efficiently to customers’ demands, travel agents need to be equipped with the right knowledge and skills to handle a large volume of enquiries. The travel industry is complex and prone to constant change. This is why agents need to be provided with ongoing training, to keep up with the latest developments and trends within their vertical.
From technological innovation to changes in consumer’s spending habits and online purchasing behaviour, travel agents need to have a good understanding of the current state of the industry, to offer proactive support and advice to every customer.
Agent training, however, should not be approached as a one-size-fits-all solution. The training budget should be assigned according to the size and scale of your company and your agents’ background and expertise. In order to drive more sales and convert leads into paying customers, they need to have the right tools and knowledge at their disposal.
Analysing call abandonment rates
One of the downsides from the adoption of online communication platforms is that customers are no longer satisfied with the “We’ll get back to you in 2-3 working days” response. Whether pre-sale or post-sale, an enquiry is expected to be answered almost immediately, or else the customer might take their business someplace else. Travel Weekly has conducted research on how long it takes to get in touch with big tour operators- when phoning a company from the likes of Thomas Cook, customers need to be prepared to wait for an average of 7.8 minutes.
Long wait times are one of the most common reasons for abandoned calls, costing travel companies valuable customers. Analysing call abandonment rates is an efficient way of determining the productivity of your contact centre and customers’ satisfaction rates. Having identified the obstacles preventing a customer to finalise a purchase, online travel agencies can then invest resources in the areas of the contact centre that need improvement. The ultimate goal for contact centre is for agents to be able to resolve customer issues on the first call. Improving the First Call Resolution (FCR) rates is therefore essential for boosting conversions and contributing to the customers’ positive booking experience.
Skill-Based Routing improves your agents’ productivity
It is essential for inbound queries to be met by agents with an expertise on the matter. If a customer has an enquiry regarding their cancelled flights to New Zealand, a travel agent dealing with bookings in Eastern Europe won’t be able to provide any insight on the issue. This will not only result in a poor customer experience, but it would also be counter-productive for the agent, who will have to spend extra time redirecting the customer to the appropriate department.
Implementing skill-based call routing within your travel contact centre is an efficient way of optimising conversions and reducing caller drop off rates. Intelligent call routing allows for the identification of the caller and the reason behind the call, so they can be assigned to the most appropriate agent. The more sophisticated call routing systems can prioritise customers depending on their reasons for calling, providing background on any previous interactions.
Contact centre agents are therefore better equipped to meet customers’ enquiries and improve the quality of interactions. Being able to assign calls to the appropriate agents in real time will improve the contact centre’s productivity and First Contact Resolution rates- making for a satisfied customer, and a likely repeat customer.
From social media interactions, to live web chat and cobrowsing, there are various opportunities for online communication that travel agencies can take advantage of. Voice, however, remains the most powerful channel for converting leads and providing support, even for the most complex of customer queries. As the travel industry evolves further, so does the need for personalised customer service. The best way to meet your customers’ needs is through the optimisation of your contact centre’s capabilities.
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