Response Tap’s Nick Ashmore explores the evolving role of the phone in the modern travel industry, and asks how call intelligence technology can harness its power, boost sales and heighten the customer experience.
The pace of change within the travel industry is something no savvy agent can ignore. We’ve seen customer demands, expectations and aspirations rocket over the years, which have brought about different paths to purchase too.
The surge in ease of comparison and convenient sofa-surfing saw a seismic shift towards online holiday shopping, and ecommerce investment spiralled as a result.
But the continued evolution of consumer tastes means the travel sector has also remained incredibly fluid, with the current overarching trend being the hunger for ‘experience’.
The direction of travel
A vast number of travellers don’t want to just ‘go on holiday’ anymore. They want a personalised product and service that provides them with a memorable ‘event’, tailored to their interests and ambitions.
That said, the DIY holiday market has been fraught with let downs. Our clients have seen consumers becoming wary of the reliability of TripAdvisor reviews; tired of Airbnb hosts letting them down; and fed up of budget airlines charging for something as basic as reserving a seat.
Perhaps it’s because ‘time out’ is now even more of a luxury – and we’ve certainly seen the demand for experiences dominate other areas of retail and leisure. But customer expectations are rising. People want more from their holiday.
The search for experiences
You’d be forgiven for thinking we’re talking simply about creative vacations, or unusual, bespoke breaks here. But what about trips with non-standard requirements too, such as travelling with someone with a disability? What about the more mature holidaymakers who continue to place unprecedented value on personal contact throughout the buying cycle? And what about people who simply don’t want to take a risk with what, for many, is their biggest non-essential expense of the calendar year?
Holidays are rarely about impulse purchases. We’re talking high-value decision-making here. They require significant research, sometimes under time-pressured circumstances in the case of last minute deals. They are incredibly personal. They benefit from the insight of people who know the destinations – and the process from start-to-finish – inside out.
The role of the phone
This is where the role of the phone stamps its authority. It is the key to providing deeper insight into the offer. The key to validating that consumer decision. The key to upselling. And the key to maximising the customer experience before the holiday begins.
Many travel agents acknowledge this, hence the longevity of call centres. But what some continue to overlook is the ability to remove the blind spot between a customer browsing their website, then picking up the phone for advice. This is where call intelligence comes in.
Removing the blind spot
In simple terms, call intelligence links clicks to calls. It gives travel agents an insight into every individual’s behaviour/actions, prior to them picking up the phone. It uncovers what made the phone ring. It tells a contact centre operator which paid search ad, marketing campaign or offline advert the caller engaged with, for example, before they picked up the phone.
Armed with this previously untapped insight, the contact centre can then achieve two key outcomes. By starting the conversation where the web journey left off, the call becomes more contextualised and relevant. This heightens the quality of the customer experience – an all-important factor in the competitive travel sector. The actionable insight also helps the call operator convert the enquiry into a sale, and possibly even upsell in the process.
All of this before travel agents even start thinking about which marketing campaigns drove which calls and how they can optimise their campaigns and spend thereafter. With the ability to attribute sales to campaigns, analyse call outcomes and use topic extraction tools within speech analytics, multichannel activity can become more intuitive than ever before.
Call intelligence in action
Adventure holiday specialists Neilson launched a new website in late 2016, to improve the research and booking experience for online shoppers. However, acknowledging the complex path to purchase in the travel sector, and committed to creating holiday experiences that make customers’ hearts sing, the team took its martech stack one step further to understand what makes the phone ring too.
The integration of call intelligence software now uncovers a deeper level of data-driven insight on an individual customer level, which benefits the company and client-base alike.
If a customer chooses to contact the sales centre because they seek the first-hand knowledge of Neilson’s active holiday experts, the call is now as relevant and informative as possible. Armed with real-time insight into an individual’s research and behaviour, up until the point of them picking up the phone, Neilson can tailor the advice and ensure the conversation is even more valuable.
The greater level of customer journey data is also proving powerful for the marketing team. Neilson is linking online and offline behaviours, which helps measure the effectiveness of every campaign and channel, enabling them to optimise spend thereafter. Decisions are being made based on evidence, not assumptions, and more enquiries are being converted into sales as a result.
The death of DIY holidays?
Are we saying that we’ve seen the death of DIY holidays? Perhaps not. There’s still a distinct desire for a self-organised vacation that the consumer feels they’ve created themselves. But in the hunt for that highly sought-after experience, it seems the phone – and the person on the end of it – plays the crucial ‘aide’ in closing the deal, especially in a sector where the number of marketing touch points shows no sign of stalling.