Arie de Geus’s most popular quote could not be more relevant in the age of the customer and where on-line bookings have virtually removed price differentiation within the travel industry. The former head of Shell Oil Company’s Strategic Planning Group once quoted…
“The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
In short he is saying that once you have cut costs and streamlined services the only way to get better is to anticipate what your customers need before they even ask.
So how could this be possible in a real business environment where most customer contact is responsive?
Well, take a look at Deloitte’s Global Contact Center Survey Results. Once again they expect to see considerable contact centre growth. Amongst their top 10 insights, they expect email growth of 80% for simple inquiries and voice growth of 68% for more complex inquiries. And unsurprisingly, it’s primarily to support business growth and customer experience (CX) demands.
But does further investing in ‘responsive’ customer support actually deliver a good customer experience?
The results from a Dimension Data Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report would suggest…”No”. Analysing more than one million travel enquiries, Dimension Data found customer satisfaction for the travel industry ranked way below other sectors such as financial services and telecoms.
The reality is, customer inquiries are created by uncertainty. More than often, these uncertainties are to do with the product/service they have purchased and the difference between expectation and actual experience.
Frustratingly for the travel industry, it is more susceptible to external contributory factors than any other industry – some simple and some more serious and public. When these things happen contact centres can become overloaded with frustrated customers seeking information and causing major ‘headaches’ for the travel companies.
Surely there has to be a better way – a more proactive way.
We believe the focus has to be on pre-empting customer inquiries at the right time – in advance of their uncertainty. Making them feel cared for and saving them time. Being able to think ahead of what the customer needs is becoming an expectation. Whilst this sounds difficult, it couldn’t be simpler; particularly as most companies are half way there already.
It is unlikely that many contact centres are operating today without the use of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to capture customer information and inquiries. Armed with this powerful customer intel, some of the best customer focussed companies will use it to populate an online FAQ page with scripted responses.
But, again, is hoping customers finding the information they require and self-serving to self-support really delivering a better customer experience? From another perspective – the most important one, being the customer’s – why should they have to search a web site in the hope that it will answer their uncertainty?
A more proactive alternative is to incorporate customer intel into post-booking customer communications. By adopting an automated customer communications solution, travel companies can add these additional communications into their customer journey – ensuring they are both personalised and relevant to each customer and their planned trip. Providing a more informative customer journey will be more engaging and a lot less frustrating.
So in the case of Grexit and concerns of access to cash, all customers with holidays booked in Greece could have been proactively advised of unfolding developments. Customers could have been informed before uncertainty kicked in and they considered picking up the phone, typing an email or logging into social media accounts.
Pre-empting customer support can reduce contact centre demand and operational costs. However echoing back to Arie de Geus’s quote, with the competitive nature of the travel industry, the greatest justification has to be differentiating customer interaction and improving customer experience. After all, happy customers are more likely to repeat book and recommend others!
Our innovative TravelComms customer communications platform does exactly this – enabling travel companies to implement customised and personalised customer journeys – creating a superior customer experience. Contact us and experience it for yourself.