The travel industry is experiencing many changes, mostly because of their rapidly changing customers. The empowered traveler demands more, through multiple channels. Many travel agents, hotels and airlines are adapting as well to serve these always-on social, mobile travelers.
Currently, 50% of hotel companies make it possible to book directly on their Facebook page with a widget or booking engine. The majority of these interactions are still with a human agent but bots are completing basic transactions and answering frequently asked questions. The more advanced, #SocialFirst brands have live agents available on Facebook and other social channels 24/7. They are making digital and social customer service work for them, not against them.
Let’s explore 3 ways that customer service helps the new empowered traveler:
1. Urgent multi-channel support
This is all about meeting your customer where they are, and helping them when they are in a pinch. Because of the availability of lightning fast service on social, customers want to get help, and they want it fast. Travel is stressful enough as it is. Throw in a missed flight or a stolen bag — travelers need support on multiple channels in the moment of crisis.
Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines, a Conversocial client, was named the top airline for the best customer service on Twitter. As you can see from the tweet below, an Alaska Air customer who faced a typical travel woe, still felt taken care of and appreciative of Alaska Air's speedy response, honesty and helpfulness. Alaska Airlines showing up at the right time, on the right channel with an honest, human service strategy that paid off.
Despite a cancelled flight and a delayed second flight, I appreciate @AlaskaAir being frank that its their responsibility and being upfront.— Paul Manson (@paulonabike) January 5, 2017
2. Making things right
When something goes wrong, the best brands make it right. The empowered traveler of today expects travel companies to take responsibility and correct mistakes. First and foremost, when an issue arises, the company must own up to the mistake. The company then has the opportunity to make up for the mistake and turn a negative experience into a positive one. That is the birthplace of true brand loyalty.
Great Western Railway exhibits this with their Social Care strategy. Feel free to visit GWR's Twitter feed to see the speedy response times to their travelers who sometimes face crises.
GWR is good about offering compensation to “right the wrong” when necessary in a way that is in direct proportion to the mistake or the negative experience that occurred.
Sarah Deane, a customer experience expert, states, “The response should be relative to the experience, otherwise, it won’t repair the perception of the brand.” In a Huffington Post article, she discusses her own negative flight experience and the airline’s offering $100 “travel certificate” as hardly a relative compensation for her two-day travel ordeal. When a company like GWR, however, first takes responsibility, then makes up for the mistake on an appropriate scale, the customer is likely to forgive the misstep and become loyal once more to the brand.
Apps are a serious business tool that can make or break brand perception. Travel companies, along with providing traditional channels for customer service such as phone and chat, and newer social channels, are utilizing the mobile app space to serve their customers easily and efficiently.
International hospitality brand Hyatt provides a stellar experience for its customers cross-channel. Hyatt's main app encompasses everything a customer could need including: reservation booking, room service requests, valet services and even look up the weather in the area. It's important to note that for service queries, Hyatt drives volume to Facebook Messenger and Twitter because of the exemploray service experiences they offer on these social, mobile channels.
Mobile apps are to a brand’s overall customer service strategy. Furthermore, the availability of multiple apps for one brand highlights the company’s dedication in offering specific information to a targeted segment of travelers.
Customer-centric brands in the travel and hospitality industries are starting to understand the impact that customer service has on the brand’s overall reputation, retention and loyalty. Flexibility and openness to change are key in adapting to the changing landscape. We’ve seen how urgent multi-channel support, compensation and accommodations and branded apps are the 3 ways that customer service empowers travelers to get what they want quickly and efficiently.
Want to learn more about how you can up your service game on your customers' favorite channels? Download our Definitive Guide to Social, Mobile Customer Service and take these valuable insights on the go.