SD-WAN and Customer Service: An Integrated Relationship
It’s no secret that providing great customer service is the backbone of the industry and a standard expectation for hospitality-related organizations. And delivering next-level, exceptional customer service can help companies gain a competitive edge with all other things being equal. Why? Because customers have come to expect white glove treatment at every interaction point. Those hospitality companies that can provide that feeling and exceed expectations throughout the customer journey will set themselves apart. Otherwise, switching between competitors (whether it be hotels, restaurants, or travel) has become relatively easy, so exceeding expectations is critically important to retain your customers’ loyalty.
There are two key factors for hospitality organizations seeking to deliver a truly exceptional customer service experience:
- Empathetic and skilled support personnel who are driven to solve customer issues and motivate that customer to keep coming back.
- A network infrastructure that enables the growth of services and applications that allows personnel to do their jobs well, as well as the delivery of new services.
This article from VeloCloud will take a deeper look at how these concepts work together from a customer’s perspective.
Typically, when one engages hospitality-related services to book a room, make a reservation, purchase a plane ticket, or problem resolution, the customer wants the response to have two characteristics – speed and knowledge.
First, the customer wants to connect with the service organization quickly. The days of waiting patiently are long gone. And having only one single method of contacting a hospitality vendor is no longer acceptable. To accommodate both the sense of immediacy and choice of communication method, hospitality companies need to provide multiple connection options – including live customer service personnel, sales and service chat functions, service portals with documentation, video tutorials, email, and social media.
While there should be a varying level of human touch behind these various interfaces, many interactions can be automated but require large amounts of data, speed, and bandwidth, and must be available on a 24x7 basis.
Second, customers want their hospitality vendor to know exactly who they are and maybe even have an idea of why they are being contacted. No one wants to call into a hotel chain’s customer service center and have to explain their specific situation and history each and every time they are transferred to a new service person. This just increases anxiety and frustration levels for the caller and the hospitality employee, and delays time to resolution. If a customer has visited the hotel website, reviewed the restaurant’s menu or looked at travel dates to book a flight, the company should be collecting and aggregating this information so that it can be used to identify the customer or potential customer immediately. In an ideal world, customers can choose their preferred method of communication, their situation is quickly identified, and resolution happens shortly after.
Hospitality organizations with complete end-to-end visibility which can anticipate immediate needs and respond quickly will gain a competitive advantage. Viable network solutions must have the ability to bridge together every communication channel with big data analytics tools and deliver them in seconds to customer service representatives and the services interfaces they use.
Creating the type of outcome-driven customer service program that users desire today requires a vast amount of data collection and storage, and the ability to synthesize it and deliver the results within seconds. While response time to the customer is key, it needs to be backed up by deep knowledge of who the customer is, their usage of the hospitality services, and potential pain points or services they may anticipate using. Behaviors and usage information need to be collected and delivered to a central data repository, housed appropriately, and upon a customer-initiated contact delivered to the customer service application of choice. Bandwidth and storage capabilities become significant dependencies.
Hospitality organizations, and specifically their CISOs, need to not only look at customer service programs that can support this type of integrated, dynamic and evolving customer demand, but also ensure that their network infrastructures are capable of scaling to meet the demands of the new systems and applications. The size and speed of the data being securely transferred between the customer, each hotel or restaurant branch, and company data analysis systems will require high levels of bandwidth and transport systems that can scale appropriately.
Today’s common network infrastructures struggle with the ability to scale to future demands. To best serve customers, these infrastructures need to be updated or enhanced with services that will optimize data and information delivery.
One such technology that brings companies into the modern age quickly and provides a future-proof outcome-driven environment is software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). SD-WAN is non-disruptive to an organization's infrastructure as it acts as an overlay, utilizing existing transport infrastructure such as MPLS, broadband, and LTE services. With SD-WAN, a hospitality organization can connect all remote franchises to a common network, enabling each branch to access the same applications and services regardless of location with the same high level of quality.
In addition, this accessibility allows hospitality organizations to deliver a better experience to their customers. Today, customers require constant access to media, Wi-Fi, and communication applications – and expect it to be available regardless of location. With an SD-WAN implementation, each location ensures that all customers are able to access their Netflix, Amazon, Skype, and any other service at all times, with constant uptime, and do so regardless of how many other people are using the network at the same time. This constant connectivity is becoming the norm and those hospitality organizations that are unable to provide the service will find their ratings decline.
Because it drives the rapid and efficient delivery of traffic, maximizes bandwidth capabilities, and enables the incremental addition of servicing applications, SD-WAN supports the necessary connectivity to facilitate comprehensive customer service initiatives. Since it is an overlay to existing infrastructure and unifies the entire network, any customer service representative or connected customer service-oriented application will have immediate and quick access to all customer-related data.