Dan Lavender, head of enterprise sales at Infinity, says travel firms will be under pressure to deliver first class service post-pandemic
The travel industry is finally on the road to recovery. While restrictions are still in place, the number of countries on the green list is increasing.
And, recent reports suggest that the traffic light system could go completely in the next few weeks. With each new announcement leading to a boost in enquiries and bookings, the sector has all eyes on what the winter will bring.
The stakes could not be higher. According to the World Travel and Transport Council (WTTC), an estimated £59.4 billion could be lost from the UK’s economy if travel continues to be curtailed over the final quarter of 2021.
The industry also faces the added pressure that the ending of the furlough scheme brings, and potential staff shortages when things begin to recover.
The good news is that the sector did have a better summer this year than in 2020 in terms of volume. And, according to our data, early August saw the most calls to travel companies since the first lockdown began.
But the industry has a long way to go to make up for a devastating 18 months. And, while the appetite for travel is growing, the current traveller is a cautious one.
The call centre is one channel where the sector can really differentiate itself by providing reassurance. Being able to speak to someone in person could be the key to converting an enquiry, and persuading people that it’s safe to travel.
Here are three key ways that the phone call will help with recovery:
- Getting closer to customers
The growth in online as a channel for booking travel has brought huge benefits.
Not only is it quick and easy for the consumer, but it also leaves a digital trail that helps companies gain a better understanding of their customers. But the phone adds another layer of insight into the customer journey.
Call tracking technology, for example, enables travel companies to see exactly where calls are coming from and what’s triggering them – a specific microsite or search term, for example.
It also shows them where each caller is located, or the last page of your website they looked at before they called.
Linking previous online visit history to the eventual phone call gives companies a more holistic view of the customer’s journey and their preferences – putting call handlers in a strong position to provide the best service.
- Adding value
The opportunities to up-sell increase significantly once customers are engaged on a phone call.
Using information gathered from their offline search behaviour, it’s also easier to gauge which additional offers they might be interested in. Advice on travel insurance or car hire, for example, could lead to affiliate sales.
Call handlers are also able to see if a specific marketing campaign has driven the call. Armed with that knowledge they’re in a better position to complete the booking.
For the wider business, call tracking provides invaluable insight into how marketing campaigns are performing across the organisation, and can help to inform future decisions.
Travel companies can also identify any patterns within conversations. Do certain keywords or phrases keep creeping into calls: requests for specific sightseeing tours or ‘flexible booking options’, for example?
Can this information be used to tailor specific promotions and prompt agents to ask the right questions?
- Consumers crave reassurance
We know the appetite is there for travel. Ski and snow holidays and cruises, in particular, have seen a big increase in bookings over the past few weeks.
But travellers will continue to be cautious about safety and any policies that may impact their trip.
Call centre agents can provide support on the latest regulations, testing requirements and insurance policies, as well as details of the Covid-19 precautions in place for their journey and stay.
Call tracking even enables companies to route calls through to the agent most equipped to deal with it – someone who has in-depth knowledge of insurance policies, for example.
Brilliant customer service that provides ultimate reassurance is what will differentiate one travel company over another.
This has been an unfeasibly difficult period for the industry. It may well have changed the way we travel forever.
Questions still remain over whether business travel will ever return to pre-COVID levels, for instance.
And, with the environmental concerns around travel already increasing before the pandemic, this may be the turning point for low-cost, high-volume flights.
Most likely, travel firms will focus on selling higher value travel less frequently. This will put even more pressure on them to deliver first class customer service.
Providing assurance, adding value and just being a friendly voice on the phone will make the call centre one of the most powerful ways to capitalise on every possible opportunity.