By Joe Doyle, global marketing director at customer care experts Sitel
Over the past decade the travel industry has gone through some major overhauls, much of which is due to the movement into the digital age. The increase in readily-available online information has made research and the travel booking process so much easier for today’s consumer.
Where our travel purchases were once price-driven, we are now seeing the customer experience becoming the real differentiator.
According to a recent survey published by TripAdvisor’s ‘TripBarometer’, 93% of travelers worldwide say that their booking decisions are influenced by other user opinions. Therefore, despite price still being one of the key factors in planning a trip, online opinion is fast becoming a major factor.
Consumers want a good choice at reasonable prices and the ease and convenience of booking holidays and flights online, wherever they are and on whatever device they happen to be using.
The challenge for the travel sector is the ability to attract more business; we are seeing many of our clients achieve this from delivering truly exceptional customer service.
A seamless booking experience across all touch-points and a single view of the brand is essential to the consumer. As we know, it can be hugely damaging for a travel company when a customer finds one price for a holiday or flight on a web-site, and another when calling the contact centre.
We are seeing more and more travel brands use technology to deliver a multichannel experience in the omni-channel age. The addition of the mobile channel is increasingly crucial for the travel sector. Recent research showed 85% of leisure travellers use their Smartphone abroad and 30% have used mobile apps to find hotels.
Omni-channel is defined by delivering a consistent customer experience across all channels of interaction, focused on problem resolution within the customers chosen channel of interaction. Key here is never involuntarily forcing the customer to move from their chosen channel of interaction in order to receive problem resolution.
In a recent Customer Relations ‘Trends to watch in 2013’ report, 86% of customers said that they will pay more for a better customer experience. This means that each interaction across channels and over time must be consistent, positive and on target with a company’s brand promise. Social customer communities, multichannel knowledge management, mobile virtual agents and natural language processing will have the biggest impact on the customer service experience in the following years.
Brands that don’t innovate around these trends—and that fail to serve customers where, when, and how they want to be served—will suffer. The winners will be the businesses that learn to run a thread through all channels and experiences by restructuring with omni-channel strategies.
Examples of travel companies, both of whom are Sitel clients, using contact centre technology to deliver great customer experience include;
As an airline, our business is necessarily customer focused and our call centre plays an important role in maintaining and supporting this commitment. Of critical importance is not only having the necessary state-of-the-art technology to support this but also the requirement to quickly flex staff numbers in an ever changing environment such as during times of flight disruption. The ability to cope effectively and provide seamless support during such times is absolutely crucial, as is the follow-up ability to generate meaningful, timely reporting.
Flybe provides a wide range services and functions to its customers that cannot be automated and that require a high level of one-to-one interface and which comprise some 50,000 calls a month. Examples are dealing with the individual travel requirements related to unaccompanied minors and support for those with reduced mobility.
Overall, we’ve been impressed by Sitel's ability to quickly understand and efficiently accommodate our specific needs to the general enhancement of our customers’ travel experiences.
Jonathan Breedon, Flybe’s Director of Customer Delivery.
In 2005 we outsourced to Sitel to allow Iberia to grow as a business unit as well as a company. Sitel’s technologies allow us to manage our customer service more effectively.
For example, enabling us to forecast calls from 4 to 15 weeks in advance to size our resources accordingly and optimise our opportunity to look after customers. The results are excellent with service levels at 95%. From a customer view point this is exceptional.
Our business is very complicated and influenced by many external factors such as strikes, volcanos and severe weather conditions. Sitel’s technologies give us the flexibility to deliver exceptional customer service.
Alain Santos, Performance Manager at Iberia.