Calling all airlines and travel companies: Consumers will pay more for a better planned customer experience
The airline and travel industry faces a huge challenge in meeting the expectations of modern consumers who demand attentive customer service more than ever. No matter what the contact channel – be it by phone, email, or in person – customers now expect the same high quality of service, delivered at speed.
Our own research shows that investing in the customer experience is vital for all airline and travel companies and will pay dividends, as more than a third (38 per cent) of consumers would spend more with airlines and travel companies had they had a better experience. Famously, Ryanair has shown us how the power of focussing on customer service can positively impact the bottom line.
When you think of the revenues generated, that opportunity is phenomenal. And what’s more, consumers are more likely to pay a premium for improved customer service when it comes to airlines and travel companies than with any other type of organisation. But airlines and travel companies are failing to capitalise on this revenue opportunity.
The missed opportunity Our research revealed that airlines and travel companies have the lowest ratings of any sector surveyed for good service (26 per cent). Other sectors (like banks, for example) were rated as high as 56 per cent.
Why the dismal numbers? Airlines and travel companies fall short on the basics of customer service: when customers dial in for service, more than 1 in 4 (26 per cent) of them have been kept on hold for more than five minutes, and 16 per cent have failed to get through completely or have hung up in frustration. When asked about their top priorities for an improved customer experience, respondents would like to see more people staffing call centres at peak times (51 per cent) and more timely responses to email enquiries (41 per cent).
Investments in the customer experience have to be made if airlines and travel companies are to reap the rewards – and a better planned customer experience is at the core of achieving this.
What are consumers calling for, and how can you respond?
Often, the contact centre is the front line of customer service, so that’s where airlines and travel companies need to focus their attention. Ensuring that it runs as efficiently and smoothly as possible requires informed and connected planning based on real-time information.
There’s no need for negative customer service numbers to persist when technology exists to connect contact centre performance to overall business goals and to help manage the workforce better. For example, ensuring more staff are in place to handle the surge in enquiries following a new product release or seasonal airfare promotion can help reduce wait times for callers. By connecting planning procedures in the contact centre to those in marketing and the supply chain, contact centre managers can ensure that they are prepared for surges in activity and avoid leaving customers waiting on hold.
This connected planning approach between departments also can, for example, sync up the contact centre and finance teams to pinpoint the most cost-effective labour coverage for seasonal demand and holidays spikes, helping the bottom line by reducing overstaffing in quieter periods.
Unfortunately, spreadsheets are still the default tool in most airline and travel company contact centre back offices. Legacy technology is siloed and unable to cope with the rigours of taking a connected approach to planning the customer experience. Businesses need to break out of spreadsheets and take advantage of the freedom that the cloud provides.
By working with one robust, connected, and scalable cloud platform for all planning, managers can ensure their operations are agile and that they can deliver unprecedented customer satisfaction – no matter how busy the season.