The Importance of Customer Service in the Travel Industries post-COVID-19

The period from early 2020 has been a challenging time for all sectors, but the travel and hospitality industries have been hit particularly hard. Fortunately, the international rollout of the COVID vaccine has brought some much-needed optimism into the sector. As confidence grows and people start travelling again, an excellent travel customer service and experience is going to be the key to gaining a competitive advantage and making the most of the rebound. 

As a result, it’s clear that Travel, tourism, and hospitality companies will need to focus on delivering outstanding travel customer service over the next six months. As the industry recovers, travellers and B2B clients will be looking for responsiveness, flexibility, reassurance and transparency. Naturally, people will be more anxious about travel, so a customer-centric approach is a necessity in order to help overcome reluctance. Travel-related companies won’t be able to do this alone though. We predict that businesses with robust customer experience (CX) software systems in place will be better placed to successfully survive the next few tumultuous months and years. 

Is your business ready to meet customers’ expectations and deliver high-level CX (Customer Experience) in the post-COVID world? To help you navigate the new normal, Freshworks has produced a white paper on the topic. Informed by the latest data, it details the current state of the travel industry and provides guidelines for the technology and strategies industry leaders can implement to improve CX. You can download the full report here. 

 

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Travel Industry

For the first time in the history of mass tourism, both international and domestic travel have been perceived as hazardous. The global scale of the COVID-19 crisis was unprecedented. Airport footfall, use of public transportation, and accommodation occupancy plunged. Restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, tourist attractions, historical sites, national parks, and historical sites were closed. Travel conferences, trade fairs, and other events were cancelled. Businesses of every size, from multinational hotel chains to individual tour guides, were directly and immediately affected. As stated in the white paper produced by Tech Research Asia, Early research suggests the pandemic has set the travel industry back 30 years 

In terms of statistics, according to The United Nations World Tourism Organisation as touched on in the Freshworks and AWS whitepaper, approximately 100 million people lost their jobs in the travel industry. Their research also shows that hotel searches and bookings were down by 47% year on year. Furthermore, The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) found that 58% of travellers indicate they will take a domestic trip but not go overseas.

Clearly, people want to travel again but are understandably reluctant. Once they do, they’ll expect top levels of customer service to convince them to use a particular company again or recommend it to others, because the competition for their business will be so fierce. Since 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations on hospitality providers from family and friends, this is a huge opportunity to get customer service right. For more in-depth research on the impact of COVID on tourism, don’t miss out on this free report.

 

How the Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Industries Can Deliver Faster Re-Establishment with A Solid CX Strategy

The key to hospitality and travel businesses surviving in the next six months will be the delivery of a truly customer-centric approach to CX. This change in the industry is an opportunity for companies to be more efficient and invest their resources wisely in order to develop true differentiation. We’re all anticipating a boom in travel, but are you ready for it? What systems do you have in place to handle new types of customer enquiries? If you’ve had to cut back on staff, you’ll need systems to handle an increase in incoming support requirements. 

A good CX strategy isn’t just about offering a single touchpoint for customers when they have a question. Solid CX encompasses the whole customer journey with all the feelings and emotions your brand generates for an individual, across multiple touchpoints, engaging with the customer and developing that relationship with them that is so key to conversion. Adopting the right customer experience and CX software systems can make measurable difference to the bottom line, both in terms of sales and internal resource efficiencies as well as CLV (Customer Lifetime Value). A CX platform offers efficiency, personalisation, and smart use of budget to deliver exceptional results.   

Moving to a customer-centric support system was beneficial to Clarity, a business travel agency, both before and during the pandemic. Before implementing Freshdesk, they relied on a slow manual method of using team mailboxes in Outlook to collate and assign customer emails. But at the beginning of the pandemic, the system simplified their speedy transition to remote working. It also ensured the team was responsive to clients 24/7 as they grappled with urgent situations such as repatriation, supplier cancellations, and relocating key workers within the UK. The travel industry is likely to face more uncertainty, but at least Clarity is prepared to manage what is to come as effectively as possible. With a robust contact and customer support system in place, you will be too.

 

How Great CX Can Deliver Differentiation in Customer-Centric Businesses

A good customer support platform maps and nurtures your customers throughout the entire customer journey, by collecting data and creating personalized service for customers. CX in travel and tourism leverages customer data insights to drive loyalty. Companies can align their offerings with a traveller’s preferences or demographic. Whether it’s an offer informed by a customer’s past purchases or knowledge of destinations they frequently visit, you need a tool with strong technological capabilities to analyse and use the data effectively in a way that your teams can make best use of. 

Manual processes and legacy CX systems risk losing customers due to slow response times, disjointed information, and siloed teams. Losing customers means losing revenue. An efficient CX platform collects, manages, and analyses your business data on one unified platform. It engages customers and potential customers across multiple channels and touchpoints to resolve problems quickly. 

People expect excellent customer service while they are on the move, both before and after their trip. In Freshworks’ white paper, Olga Padulosi, Head of Partner Marketing at Appfollow, recommends using a mobile app to complement other channels and deliver first-class CX: “Predict questions your customers may have and make sure they find answers fast. Your customers don’t want to wait, so to streamline your support, monitor all the possible channels they may use to reach you — chat, email, app reviews, social media — and have an agent ready to help.” Sherrie Rafiei, Senior Account Executive at Freshworks, speaking at the European Expert panel discussed the importance of offering FAQ’s to customers. 80% of customers want to be able to self-serve so making sure companies regularly update their FAQ’s is essential to delivering strong CX. 

Cultivating good relationships and keeping track of leads and customers is crucial for customer acquisition and retention in any industry. But in 2021 it’s absolutely essential for travel, which has been hit so hard by the effects of the pandemic. 

Juggling different systems entails the use of multiple passwords, workflows, and pipelines. Each member of your team spends precious time learning and familiarising themselves with distinct platforms, which can be frustrating and time-consuming. A centralised system accessed by all is a much more efficient and user-friendly solution. 

Discover the future of CX in travel and tourism and listen to the European Expert Panel run by Freshworks by downloading the full recording. 

 

Implementing Great CX with Freshworks 

Freshworks products can support the industry in several ways. In the case of travel customer service, our Freshdesk solution maps a large amount of customer support requests easily and intuitively. 

The great thing about Freshdesk is that it is easy to use and scale as your business grows. You can integrate your email and social media channels for an uninterrupted workflow. Here are just some of the things you can do with our suite of products at different price points:

  • Customise team dashboards
  • Convert all email and social media queries into tickets 
  • Create canned responses for repetitive queries
  • Automate follow-ups, escalations, and other tasks based on triggers
  • Create knowledge base articles in multiple languages
  • Chat to customers in real-time
  • Manage support for multiple products and services
  • Generate reports to draw deeper insight from your data
  • Send out CSAT surveys

How Freshdesk can Enhance Personalised Travel Customer Service  

Freshdesk keeps track of all communication with customers. It can automatically send the right email or autoresponder to the relevant customer depending on how you tagged them. It can also prioritise tickets and allocate them to specialist teams so that people with specific knowledge can provide a fast and personalised service. For example, if someone has a question about a cruise booking, their ticket could be tagged ‘cruises’ accordingly to reach the right member of staff. 

Likewise, travel companies should localise to be engaging and provide context. Freshdesk lets you provide multilingual support (in 43 languages) for both email notifications and knowledge base articles. 

Deliver High-Quality Travel Customer Experience with Freshdesk

Freshdesk is designed to enhance a customer-centric culture. By mapping your entire buyer journey, it provides a 360-degree view of the customer to nurture long-term relationships. The software delivers high-quality CX with automation, integrated messaging platforms, and custom reporting to track performance.

Our omnichannel integrations help you find customers wherever they are to deliver outstanding service on their terms. Your customers will usually be at varying stages of technology adoption, but you can reach them all no matter how highly advanced or analogue their systems might be. It’s a good idea to assess your own customer service maturity and technological capabilities before adopting a new customer support management software

 

Integrated Chatbots to Resolve Customer Service Issues 

The world isn’t static, and neither are our CX solutions. Freshdesk’s powerful CX software manages customers in real-time by offering remote assistance from any location. The demand for enquiries around new regulations and travel restrictions is set to continue, so you need to be proactive and ready for change. AI bots detect intent, engage in conversation, and provide speedy resolutions. They save agents time spent having to deal with repetitive, mundane questions, and can even onboard, train, and assist agents. 

 

Gather Insights Effortlessly

Use Freshdesk custom reports to track and analyse performance. Schedule them for delivery straight to your inbox and customize data visuals into charts and graphs for easy overviews. 

You can monitor your team’s workload and productivity to gain insights into their response times with zero coding experience. It’s easy to spot trends in the total volume of service and identify issues or areas for improvement. Freshdesk also lets you study metrics across different timelines to gauge your team’s efficiency.

 

Looking Ahead in 2021

Helping customers navigate support is much more important now. People are looking for easy transactions and solutions to problems. It’s difficult to see how businesses can survive in the post-lockdown travel and hospitality sectors without a strong technological foundation. A customer-centric service backed by powerful engagement software is the key to seamless CX in 2021.

At the recent ABTA conference ‘Redefining Customer Service in Travel’, Freshworks participated in a panel session focused on what new customer service departments might look like. The panel discussed how the travel industry could evolve to meet the changing needs of the customer. Mariam Mogal, Customer Centre Manager at Virgin Atlantic Holidays, focused on using technology to help customers while taking pressure off her front-facing staff. Technology is an essential component to effective CX “self-service and automation to provide an omni-channel view.” 

As customer enquiries and expectations continue to shift, personalising service and helping customers to self-serve is more important than ever. Mariam also indicated this, “Where can we guide customers to self-serve? Because really customers don’t want to call if they don’t need to. It’s recognising those areas and then pushing those through to automation, so the other customers that need reassurance and specialist advice come through to us.” This way, technology integrates seamlessly with human interaction to provide quick, targeted, and personalised customer service, while also supporting the agents on the front line to prioritise customers who require urgent support.

 

Request a Demo with FreshDesk to Start Your CX Journey

The days of one-channel CX software that relies on emails and spreadsheets are over. In the fiercely competitive post-COVID landscape, you need to strategise to stand out. It’s time to embed a customer-centric culture into your processes and customise experiences to appeal to travellers in this new world.

Freshworks can help you speak your customer’s language, meet them on the channel of their choice, and use data to keep delighting them, building trust, engagement and commitment over the long term. Discover the future of CX in travel, tourism, and hospitality by downloading this invaluable white paper or alternatively listen to the full expert panel recording here

Take our customer service maturity quiz to see how your CX processes could be optimised. 

Visit our full Freshstart content library to learn more about how accelerating your digital transformation is the key to business success. If you want to learn how Freshdesk can help you transform your CX, sign up for a free trial or contact us for more information. 

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