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11.27.18 | blog

5 Winning Strategies Top Travel Brands Use to Avoid Customer Service Bottlenecks

The holidays are a peak travel time -- and that means more calls to travel brands' customer service lines, especially with weather-related flight delays and cancellations. Without a strategy in place, the increased demand for service can overwhelm and create bottlenecks on the customer facing side.

Here are 5 winning strategies top travel brands use to address customer needs and avoid bottlenecks during the busy travel season. 

1. Add on Extra Support

The holiday season brings increased customer contact and that means you must increase your support resources accordingly. Fail to do so and you'll get a bottleneck as well as angry customers who take more of your time and emotional energy from customer support resources.

The solution is not to provide enough resources to support peak season demand if your organization can’t sustain them all year round. It’s best to leverage flexible and semi-flexible call volume management so you can pinch-hit when the demand is high.

75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent. If you are providing a live service via chat or phone, a live person must be available to them within 2 minutes. Any longer and you will run the risk of an unhappy customer.

2. Support Motivation

Already under high-pressure, support resources can be stressful during peak season. Consider also that holidays, in the northern hemisphere, overlap with freezing weather, cold and flu bugs, and family responsibilities. When support resources are stressed from a bad day at work may be more likely to get sick or call out. If your frontline CX resources are not finding ways to shake off the stress, seasonal pressure can lead to illness, absenteeism, and low morale.

Knowing that your CX resources will be overburdened during your busy season, how can ensure positive motivation? 

One solution is incentives. You might reward support resources who hit a benchmark, such as taking less than 2 minutes in between calls to document the conversation or a lower than average FTE.

86% of organizations have a reward and or recognition program in place.

70% of these organizations offer between 3 and 6 different incentive programs.

3. Triage Customers by Need to Elevate Critical Issues

Not all customer needs have the same priority. Consider an urgent call from a customer who experienced an interruption to their trip and needs immediate assistance with a workaround versus a customer who has a quick question and can't find the answer on your website. 

With no triage system, these callers must wait in the same queue to get service. With a triage system, the caller who just has a quick question can be taken care of by a less knowledgeable member of your care team, via chatbot, or by a virtual support member who is working remotely. Meanwhile, the customer with an urgent need can get their issue elevated up to a senior member of the support team, who can more quickly resolve the problem. 

70% of request to Google Assistance are expressed in natural language. This means that users are getting more comfortable having conversation with computers via chat.

Over 1/3 travelers across the countries are interested in using digital assistance to research or book travel.

By escalating high-level, high-touch needs to the most skilled support resources, your CX can decrease wait times, increase customer satisfaction, and clean out the wait queue before bottlenecks develop. 

4. Offer Alternatives to Phone Support with Self-Service 

Rising expectations for customer service compound the bottleneck issue. Customers increasingly expect to find everything they need to know online rather than have to call in to get service. Calling may be the last resort option, with younger consumers reluctant to use the phone altogether. 

Travel brands can communicate honestly and set customer expectations with comprehensive website content, transparent policies, and an on-site FAQ.

Chatbot technology can assist with self-service by providing another way for customers to get their questions answered. 

52% of consumers said they would use a chatbot for questions

38% said they would consider booking flights with a chatbot.

Chatbot technologies can also help customers access important information from the road.

By offering several ways for customers to reach out, you can divert traffic from support resources. This allows your organization to provide a higher level of support to those customers that do call in for service, because they’re not worried about getting customers off the phone quickly to move on to the next person in line. 

5. Incorporate Virtual Service 

The old customer support model isn't satisfying customers nor CX resources. Support resources feel pressured to move from one call to the next without decompressing after stressful conversations. Customers resent long wait times and blow off steam by venting at support resources. The cycle continues—but there is a better way. 

Adding virtual service to the mix can increase support resource satisfaction, increase customer satisfaction, and save money. That's what Ctrip, a Chinese travel agency, found when they let part of their customer resources work remotely.  Remote support resources were happier and took fewer breaks, while Ctrip saved on overhead.

You don't have to let your existing support resources work from home to add benefits of virtual service. Partners can help you add virtual service to your existing contact center model to decrease employee overwhelm and combat attrition, two problems common in the contact center environment. 

53% of customers said they would remain loyal to a hotel brand that provided high-quality service, even if the brand was more expensive than competitors.

The data is clear: Travel brands can sustain long-term relationships with customers by excelling in service. 

Years after a vacation, your customers may not remember what went wrong, but they will remember how your customer support resources handled the issue. During any high-volume period, increased levels of calls do increase the risk of un-met expectations. By addressing support levels, modes of service, morale, and customer needs you can chip away at the top causes of customer dissatisfaction and keep things running smoothly. Your reward? Satisfied customers who return to your brand for their next trip, and who refer you when asked for recommendations or most trustworthy travel brands. 



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