According to the World Economic Forum, a “new age of travel” is on the horizon, with vacation ranking as the second-most desired activity just behind dining out.
That’s probably not surprising. Everyone looks forward to the next vacation on their calendar, and everyone has felt the disappointment of canceled plans over the last two years and counting of the pandemic.
But ask any traveler about their worst vacation, and it will almost certainly include a tale about a terrible customer service experience.
That’s because the hospitality and travel industries live and die by their ability to provide excellent customer service and earn loyal guests. The two objectives are arguably more intertwined than customer service is to any other industry.
But for contact center leaders in today’s hospitality environment, the state of customer service is daunting.
The reality is it’s never been more challenging to provide excellent customer service than it is right now.
Reliable agents are impossible to find amid the ongoing Great Resignation. Call volumes are wildly unpredictable. And Covid-19 has created all-new expectations and anxieties among travelers.
On top of that, traditional contact center strategies are no longer viable. Seasonal and temporary hiring can’t scale fast enough with the booming return of travel. Legacy technologies like IVRs and customer self-service strategies don’t go far enough to satisfy frustrated travelers who just want an answer. And Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) comes with a slew of training, cost, and cultural challenges.
So where can the hospitality industry turn? In this case, modern problems really do require modern solutions.
Enter contact center automation.
And before you stress out further, don’t worry. These three words aren’t nearly as scary, confusing, or mystifying as they were five years ago. Here’s why.
Contact center automation is the process of automating tier-1 customer service requests while empowering agents to focus on more complex and nuanced customer challenges. Solutions for contact center automation have come a long way in the last half-decade. Today, they leverage technologies like conversational AI and easy-to-navigate platforms that can be fully ramped and integrated with any CRM or contact center software in just a dozen or so weeks to start resolving customer issues. The best contact center automation solutions feature a consistent customer experience that fully resolves any number of inbound or outbound conversations over any channel, including voice. That’s because today’s automation tools are purpose-built for contact centers: some come 80% ready to deploy out-of-the-box, and include built-in telephony, turnkey CRM integrations, and advanced analytics, which we’ll talk about more in a minute.
The best contact center automation platforms leverage state-of-the-art conversational AI technology, meaning travelers can leave their preconceived notions about human-to-machine conversations in the past. Many of today’s automation solutions boast customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores that match, or even outpace, those of human agents. This is largely because customers can get resolutions on their first touch without having to wait, repeat themselves, or get transferred to department after department before getting an answer – unfortunate hallmarks of many guests’ previous hospitality experiences. For brands concerned about customer adoption, it’s worth noting that 80% of customers would rather talk with a natural-sounding, human-like machine that responds quickly and accurately than wait on hold for 15 minutes. Now, customers can get faster resolutions when it comes to booking and managing reservations, upgrading their travel accommodations, updating their payment info, and much more.
Effective contact center automation solutions don’t compete with or replace live agents, they augment them. Imagine telling your hospitality contact center agents they’ll never have to pick up a tier-1 call again, or deal with the same repetitive question 50+ times a day. With the right solution in place, agents have more availability to focus on complex cases, and the resulting increased job satisfaction leads to better talent retention. Contact center automation should act as an assistant to hospitality agents, helping them be more organized, arming them with insights that allow them to be more empathetic, and enabling them to provide memorable customer experiences.
Contact center automation is unlimitedly scalable and available 24/7. Think of it as having an infinite supply of your best performing agents. The benefit for hospitality contact center managers is they can scale their service up or down according to demand without impacting human resources or overhead. This adds massive cost reduction benefits to hospitality operations while making scheduling more predictable and travelers better served. What’s more is that the best contact center automation uses machine learning to get smarter over time, and only needs to be trained once, so hospitality contact center managers can focus on providing guests with better experiences.
With contact center automation, hospitality leaders gain visibility into all customer service conversations. They get an end-to-end dashboard that lets them understand their patrons better, monitor conversations, analyze insights from conversation data, and take action immediately by updating conversation scripts to create an optimal customer experience.
The increased insight into analytics enables hospitality leaders to predict traveler demand and get a clear understanding of their guests.
Hospitality isn’t the only sector implementing contact center automation. Industries like retail, transportation, and entertainment all find their contact centers in a similar position. But arguably no industry can benefit more from automation than hospitality.
Contact centers are often the first touchpoint a traveler has with their upcoming destinations, and the quality of this interaction can make — or break — their experience before they even arrive.
With automation, the guest who needs a quick answer on their reservation or accommodation details can now receive up-to-date information in minutes from a purpose-built machine. On the other hand, the stressed parent who just had a flight canceled can quickly talk to a human and receive assurances that their family will have a place to stay, and a reliable hospitality partner for life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gadi Shamia is the CEO and Co-Founder of Replicant, a conversational AI platform founded on the belief that machines are ready to have useful, complex conversations that will transform the way they interact with the world. Prior to Replicant, Gadi helped take Talkdesk, a $10B contact center software market leader from a seed-stage company to a Unicorn startup as its COO, and played a key role in architecting and executing its 20X growth in people and revenue.