Customer service interactions are four times more likely to decrease loyalty to a brand than increase it, travel companies were told at the Travolution Summit.
It came from customer service software firm Zendesk, which warned travel businesses to ensure they have covered off all channels of engagement to keep all customers as happy as possible.
That includes more traditional means of contact such as telephone and email as well as text, live chat, social media and self-service online help centres.
“Relationships are complicated,” said Richard Bassett, strategic sales at Zendesk. “Customer relationship are no different. And it can get quite messy across devices.”
He explained that organisations want loyalty, trust and evangelism from their customers while customer want responsiveness, transparency and empowerment.
Bassett told delegates that offering the same level of service across devices means companies stand more chance of building their relationships with their customers rather than see it diminish and explained that while there was a growth in customers’ use of alternative channels – such as social media – to contact businesses, traditional methods like the phone still proved popular.
That, he said, was because some companies are not putting enough resources into managing all the different channels that customers want to use. The other reason, he said, was because customers use different channels depending on where they are and what they are doing. They could be using a live chat service while at work, and a hands-free phone while in the car, he said.
He compared moving to a multi-channel approach to going from being a musician to a composer and insisted it was imperative to give a consistent level of service across all platforms. He said it was also important for the company to log all interactions on different devices so that customers don’t have to repeat their queries to different advisors via different channels.
Not offering all channels can frustrate a customer, Bassett said, when championing the multi-channel approach against the high costs that he admitted were involved.
“Costs should actually go down in the long-run as resolution times will improve because the customers are having a better experience,” he said.
To get the most out of a multi-channel approach, travel companies must understand why customers are contacting them via each different channel, he added.
Zendesk works with travel brands including Secret Escapes, Airbnb, Holiday Extras, trivago, Eurotunnel and Skyscanner.
Skyscanner, Bassett said, had seen the number of people contacting them after using the online help centre drop because it addressed hat people were looking for in the first place. This, he said, freed up customer service personnel’s time to spend longer on more complex queries.
Artificial intelligence could be used to improve the service, he added, by automatically answering basic questions on email or SMS (text). Bassett said this could reduce the time it takes a customer to resolve an issue by days.
“Customers have a lifetime value,” Basset concluded. “And to make the most of that you have to keep them happy.”