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Over the last week the newspapers have been filled with happy images from the Jubilee festivities. Yet while Paddington and the contents of the Queen’s handbag raised a smile amongst the media, they could not diminish the headlines focused on the developing travel chaos hitting airports up and down the country.

With 305 scheduled UK flights cancelled, the travel sector appeared to be struggling to cope with the “back-to-normal” swathes of travellers looking to take advantage of the double bank holiday. From delays to cancelled flights, travellers across the country (including some of our own here at IPI!) were left frustrated and in some cases, stranded.

Circumstances like this only serve to highlight the importance of a seamless customer service operation. Afterall, what is the first thing you do as a customer when you hear of problems? You speak to your provider (AKA the contact centre) to find out what is going on and what your options are. Indeed, serving to emphasise this point even further, one travel agency has claimed that 30% of its current call traffic is from customers worried about future bookings.

With summer just around the corner, we thought that now presented a good opportunity to share some steps that travel organisations can take to ensure that the contact centre is geared up for a rise in traffic and is performing at its best, even when the circumstances are far from optimal. Here are some of our top tips:

 

  1. Open up your mind to omnichannel – an increase in call volume begs for an increase in the channels you use to communicate with customers. Think about the channels that you currently employ to communicate with customers and ensure that they remain fit for purpose. A chatbot, or messenger functionality, may divert some traffic away from the contact centre.
  2. Proactive communication counts for a lot – in times of uncertainty and stress, being proactive with your customer base holds great merit. That doesn’t mean calling up each and every customer, but rather, updating the FAQs on your website, or recording a new message for callers into the contact centre. Show your customers that you are on top of the situation and reiterate your willingness to help.
  3. Manage your workforce – think about peak times that customers choose to get in touch and ensure that you have enough agents to deal with the incoming traffic. Use Workforce Engagement platforms to manage the schedules of your team to make sure that you have the right people, at the right time to deal with incoming enquiries.
  4. Remember the importance of empathy – while the back-end technology is important in smoothing out the customer journey, there is a lot to be said for ensuring that the soft skills of your agents are up to scratch. The customers getting in touch are likely to be angry, worried or even both. If your agents are trained to speak to them empathetically, they are more likely to allay any fears and retain that customer’s loyalty.
  5. Don’t forget your employees (the agents) in the process – times of high call volumes are stressful for agents to manage. Make sure your team feels engaged, use tools, such as gamification, to keep staff motivated, and reward staff to keep morale up.

 

Situations like this only serve to emphasise the importance of a well-rounded contact centre. Travel organisations looking to retain customer loyalty, would do well to learn from the lessons of the last two weeks and optimise their operations in readiness for the summer season. If they don’t, they risk being left red faced and out in the cold.

If you want to have a chat with our team about how to enhance your own operations, get in touch here.