In our recent webinar ‘The Changing Face of the Contact Centre – 1 Year On’, in partnership with the UKCCF, our panel of contact centre industry experts looked back at how the upheaval of the past year has impacted contact centres; how prepared they were for such rapid change; how they managed to keep operations running to varying degrees of success; how they met and overcame new challenges; and how technological innovation has never been so important.
We heard a broad spectrum of opinions from a group of people with longstanding careers in the contact centre industry as they shared their experiences from the past 12 months, their thoughts on the challenges they have faced, and how different companies, markets and sectors have managed the good and the bad.
Today, we want to take a closer look at one of these sectors – travel. As discussed by our panellist Mary Jane Wells (MJ), Founder & MD at Marelo, this sector has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic, and travel organisations have had to adapt and innovate in order to survive and thrive over the past year.
How the travel industry has changed
There have been a few events over the past decade – the 2008 Recession, 9/11, the volcanic ash cloud in 2010 – that have given the travel industry some insight into how to prepare for the upheaval caused by the pandemic. What is unprecedented, however, is the duration of the disruption and its global scale, and travel organisations have had to adapt their operations in completely new and different ways as a result.
What these past events and the current situation have taught us is that agility, adaptability, and accessibility of information are essential to survival and ongoing success. Indeed, the most successful organisations over the past year have implemented best practices in crisis management and business contingency plans by moving to cloud, creating more self-service options, and implementing omni-channel functionality in an effort to keep customers informed and lines of communication open at a pivotal time. From an employee perspective, because everyone is working remotely, consistent communication via virtual townhalls, polls, team meetings and visible dashboards have allowed greater sense of input and trust. As a result, customers and employees alike have been able to navigate and resolve issues more effectively, critical at a time when travel has been less than stable.
In addition, we’ve seen travel organisations offer more flexibility in their pricing and terms & conditions, as well as strengthened transparency and accountability. Those organisations that have thrived over the past year, and that will continue to do so, are those which have created agility in both their people and processes at all points, and are using innovative technology solutions to enable these changes.
“From airlines to cruise ships, every travel organisation has had to figure out new processes to support changing customer behaviour over the past year. One of the biggest challenges at the beginning of the pandemic was enabling home working. Many organisations didn’t have off-premise technology, but it was essential that it was put in place to handle the huge changes happening in the sector, from an unprecedented number of customers looking to rebook or refund their travel plans to helping customers return to their home country. Technology, especially cloud-based solutions that allowed people to work from home and self-service functions that provided customers with transparency and efficiency, have been an essential component of making this possible.” MJ, Founder & MD at Marelo.
Winning back customer trust
The uncertainty of the past year has left customer loyalty and trust in travel wavering, with changing regulations leaving trips abroad and travel plans in limbo. Indeed, the overwhelming problem that has needed solving since March 2020 has been how to be successful in a time of low trust and high expectation.
Rebuilding trust, brand loyalty and travel confidence has never been more important. But travel organisations have stepped up to the challenge. There has been a shift from generating new sales to protecting existing customers by building margins and enhancing customer experience, helping them to navigate the unfamiliar waters of repatriation, rebooking and cancellations in a world of ambiguity – and strengthening loyalty and retention as a result.
Again, clear communication and transparency with customers and employees alike are key here. Make sure internal and external communications are aligned. Ensure that customers are proactively and effectively kept abreast of any and all changes to their bookings and plans. Provide customer service agents with the right tools and skills to handle customer expectations and enquires in an engaged and efficient manner, as well as the training to deal with sensitive and vulnerable customers. With everyone on the same page, sharing the same messages and streamlining the customer experience, trust and loyalty will not only be rebuilt but will grow stronger than ever in a time of adversity.
To find out more, you can catch-up with the webinar here. Also be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming blog where we will take a closer look at the impact the past year has had on the retail industry.