Search queries for customer service information about brands are increasing 26% year on year according to Google.
The search engine’s head of travel Ruairidh Roberts told a workshop sponsored by payments technology firm Wex that service queries were being driven by greater device usage.
Roberts said Google data shows the better loved brands generate the least service queries and that it was something brands had to be aware of as these interactions are a major customer touch point.
“This is now a big share of queries coming in to your brand. We would all like it to be searches for bookings, but this is a growing segment.
“What does that mean in terms of the experience you are giving to them and how you can interact with them?”
Roberts showed delegates a brand arc with the most cherished firms at the top able to get its advocates to do most of its customer service work for them.
“We use it to understand where does a brand position itself and how is it understood by the public,” he said.
Telecommunications firms generally fair poorly on the arc, but Roberts cited Giff Gaff as one that is trying to change this by offering credit to customers who answer their customer service inquiries.
“Improving brand perception can improve the way people represent themselves with your brand. The knock on effect is you get less customer service queries coming in.”
Roberts said Apple was now in a position in which it is defended by its fans even when it makes decisions that is not about putting the customer first.
Andrew Flintham, commercial director of Tui UK & Ireland, said it was important to be realistic in product descriptions to set expectations of the consumer.
He said digital can be used to help bring the product alive which is more challenging in store, but video walls and other point of sale technology was doing this in its 40 flagship holiday design stores.
Flintham added: “Consistency is the more important piece. Customers are using all of our channels and we do no care which channel the consumer books with.
“Most customers will use multiple channels. It’s about having a seamless experience.”
Dean Harvey, Kuoni marketing director, said the luxury operator has introduced new technology called Pixie to create personal product and marketing for customers.
He said the next stage will be to allow its individual agents to send out messages direct to customers rather than them coming from the marketing department.
“It’s about making it personal, which means you have to have that human one to one contact. Consumers are not stupid.
“It’s far more valuable to get a telephone call from someone who has received you inquiry. The answer’s very simple and that’s putting people back in the mix.
Harvey said Kuoni was working on being able to personalise the website the consumer sees based on what is known about them like whether they have already booked.
“Some of the best personalisation is invisible to the customer. If they’ve booked serve them more useful content about their upcoming holiday.”
Kim Daplyn, Travel Republic customer relations manager, said firms should embrace complaints. “They have told you exactly what their experience was. You need to use that you cannot ignore it.
“You need a system that helps you to do that, to store all that information and use it to your advantage. You should use that information to make your services much better.”
Harvey agreed saying it was “absolutely key to be seen to be responding publically” although Daplyn warned not to have a public row and to take the grievance offline once it is acknowledged.