According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2012 Americans made approximately 2 billion trips for business or leisure. With such a great deal of activity within the travel and hospitality industry, it is no surprise that customer service is a huge undertaking and a top priority. In today’s economy, consumers are more price conscious than ever before, and as a result, travel-related companies need cost-efficient methods to grow market share. Competition is fierce and competing on price alone is just a race to the bottom. Companies need to compel loyalty through differentiated customer service.
Travel and hospitality industry challenges include but are not limited to:
• Customers want to interact with travel and hospitality companies through whatever channel is most convenient to them. They expect the same set of rich features regardless of that channel.
• Making inbound and outbound IVRs an important piece of the multi-channel strategy.
• When weather or other disruptions occur, customer service is often inadequately staffed to handle the influx of calls.
• Customers expect differentiated treatment and companies want to segment customers based on value.
Technology is helping companies in the travel and hospitality industry tackle many obstacles currently in place. When IVR systems were first introduced, the travel industry was one of the first industries to utilize them, and there are no signs of slowing down or switching technology. Certmag.com estimates that the amount spent within the travel industry on “outbound integrated voice response services is set to [reach] $524 million by 2013.”
Companies need to compel LOYALTY through differentiated customer service
“46% of all customer interactions [are] still being conducted via the phone,” based on the findings from a Unisphere Research survey. With this large number of customers still utilizing the phone to stay connected with companies, it is no wonder many companies are looking to self-service phone automation to offer their customers a better service experience. An advanced solution will be able to take incoming calls and offer the customer various travel options that will accommodate all types of schedules. In addition, being able to take payments over the phone is a vital element to ensuring this application is an efficient one that will decrease queue wait times and free up live call center agents. Offering customers the ability to change travel plans, and pay any fees associated with rearranging plans, is another way to generate revenue while assisting customers quickly and efficiently.
CMSWire.com in a recent article stated that customers are often asking themselves the following question: “Is this company making my life easier or harder? If the former I’ll stay with them; if the latter I need to find someone else.” In recent years, the travel and hospitality industry has come under fire due to increasing prices and fewer perks. Companies within the industry understand that providing the best customer service is essential to retain customers. Offering customers an outbound call to remind them about upcoming travel arrangements, while also providing customers the ability to perform other tasks (make changes, check-in to flight, etc.) adds to the overall customer service experience.
In 2012 “the cost of domestic flight delays put a $32.9 billion dent into the U.S. economy, and about [$16.7 billion of] that cost is borne by airline passengers,” according to a University of California, Berkeley study. When a flight status changes, a bus is running late, or a train is cancelled, how companies go about notifying passengers can make a huge difference in their perception of their travel provider. Offering customers the ability to check status in real time over the phone provides an essential customer service experience for your customer overall. It enables the customer to adjust and anticipate their arrival time and simply plan better or at least be prepared to wait, instead of being blind-sided and ultimately becoming frustrated and annoyed vowing to never again use that company. An intelligent solution should be able to utilize an outbound application to call customers and notify them of the status change, it will also allow for inbound calls so that customers can use a self-serve application to double check on their travel arrangements.
The travel and hospitality industry has always been a leader in the introduction of creative ways to use technology. There is just too much activity to do it all with humans, and customers prefer self-service anyway. Kiosks, smartphones, and voice self-service platforms are all part of the solution. Voice self-service plays a critical role and probably always will as the dynamic nature of the business causes too much variation in demand and a machine is much better at coping with those changes. Contact us today to see how SmartAction can work for you.
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