Correct Call Center Staffing: A Critical Solution to Travel’s Post-Pandemic CX Crisis

While travel and hospitality companies work to build back their onsite, face-to-face employee base, a concurrent need is to implement a smart CX strategy that attracts crucial behind-the-scenes support.
a woman talking on a cell phone

Smart Customer Experience brands are addressing today’s staffing challenges by finding a balance between the use of automation and people to engage with travelers at all stages of the customer journey. Blending “Bots&Brains™” is an approach to striking the optimal customer experience with agents who can be empathetic and offer value, while leveraging automation that helps a customer get the right answer fast when human intervention would only add cost and possibly even frustration. But today, accessing talent is a challenge to staff the human component of an effective Bots&Brains™ solution. Let’s explore some of the causes and unpack some ideas to address the challenge.

The Challenge

To understand the challenges we are facing, it’s important to look at what has happened over the past year. In the spring of 2020, travel and hospitality companies experienced a precipitous drop in bookings and stays as the COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdowns around the world. As a result, many travel industry employees were laid off, found other work, or are unavailable due to government unemployment programs.

This shortage of staff has created a gap in the ability for travel companies to manage complex interaction through the journey of their guest:

  1. Engagement/research
  2. Reservations/changes
  3. Care during stay
  4. Care post stay
  5. Loyalty management

Despite flexible work-at-home programs and higher wages, travel and hospitality company contact centers are experiencing extensive hold times and call abandon rates greater than 40%. Hotels and restaurants are struggling to meet guest demands and are, in some cases, operating with limited hours. The result: dissatisfied guests, abandoned revenue, and/or higher distribution costs as guests turn to online or personal travel agents for guidance.

The Opportunity

Today, we’re seeing a promising spike in summer and fall bookings for leisure and potential for growing business travel.

To address the hiring challenge, intelligent automation is the next-best solution to help existing staff to provide customers the best experience. Automation using analytics, although improving, does have its limitations; speech IVRs can resolve about 25% of interactions, and an unattended chatbot can resolve 30 to 80% of interactions. The effectiveness of intelligent automation is dependent on the following factors:

  • Quality of available analytics and historical data around the contact drivers
  • Quality of the available knowledgebase and the indexing accomplished
  • Scope of work pushed to the chatbot
  • Industry
  • Integrations (ease and approvals)
  • Whether the chatbot is managed as an operational channel or serves as a one-time tech only deployment

Apps and websites are quite effective, but complex customer requests will likely cause a frustrating user experience. For example, if you were to research or try to book the following specific requests online, you would quickly experience search engine limitations:

  • Connected king and two twin rooms, on the club floor, with a view of the lake in Chicago, using points for one room and best available rate for the other room
  • A 7- or 10-day cruise from a Florida port, on or about August 15th, in stateroom mid-ship, with a balcony, with a refundable fare for two adults and two kids
  • Recommendations for things to do in Turks and Caicos, 4.5 stars or better, with no reviews mentioning crime

The Solution

While travel and hospitality companies work to build back their onsite, face-to-face employee base, a concurrent need is to implement a smart CX strategy that attracts crucial behind-the-scenes support. Some suggestions include:

  • Select an outsourcing partner or BPO company with access to passionate customer experience agents to augment your current staffing issues.
  • Weave in intelligent automation technology for simple requests leaving the complex situations to an experienced agent. Technology such as RPA (Robotic Process Automation) or RDA (Robotic Desktop Automation) reduces costs of interaction, improves quality of information, drives conversion, and most crucially, increases guest satisfaction. Watch a video example of this type of technology at work here.
  • Challenge your BPO partner to drive continuous digital optimization through more effective use of analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Travel and hospitality is something done for humans by and with humans. After a year and a half of Zoom calls, food deliveries and isolation, travelers want human interaction. People want to see smiles, hear unmuffled speech, and experience the freedom of travel. They want to reunite with friends, family, and business acquaintances. They want to be and feel human again.

In recent months, we’ve seen drastic changes in buying and servicing trends, and we know that technology-enabled solutions are absolutely welcomed and desired by consumers. Yet we also know that help from a live human remains in demand—especially for those complex and detailed requests.

Building your business for the future means finding that optimal balance of Bots&Brains™, automation, and humans working in collaboration to deliver a cost-effective, smarter CX.