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Published on Friday, July 5, 2019

How cloud-based technology can benefit travel companies






Article written by Matthew Parker, CEO of Babble - one of the UK's leading providers of cloud-based communications technology for travel companies

The recent ITT conference in Croatia, with "The Opportunities of Change" as its theme, pointed out that the tourism industry is facing unprecedented strategic and operational challenges in the current economic and political climate. For this reason, it is paramount that travel businesses are ready to adapt to changes and embrace new opportunities.

Bearing the conference's theme in mind, let me share with you an astounding statistic, quoted at last year's ABTA Convention, which had my head reeling but which gives a clear indication of how travel businesses can 'fine-tune' things to improve their performance. One of the speakers said that online companies usually convert at 2-3%, whereas a contact centre operation will typically convert at 30-40%.

This is a vast difference and, whilst I am sure volume is a factor here in determining the economics of one model versus another, and the numbers are inflated for conference impact, it also accounts for why we are seeing so many pure-play travel companies develop their hybrid business-model - taking the best of both models.

Using online to drive attraction and interest and deliver a large chunk of the customer journey, and then step-in with a high-touch human engagement just when it matters most. The world is hybrid!

Old-school contact centres didn't suit the fleet-footed online operators - huge capex, inflexible workforces, large desk-based call-centres, the nightmare of high-fixed costs and large expensive workforces - but that's no longer true.

While in the past travel businesses might have had to invest in expensive IT or infrastructure, the new services available with cloud-based technologies mean excellent contact centre service is available for any size travel businesses - and your contact centre teams are as likely to be working from home as in an expensive office.

That's the beauty of cloud - better consumer journeys, better service, higher conversion levels and lower costs are all now available through harnessing constantly improving cloud-based technology.

I see some really clear main benefits for the travel industry:

Flexibility and scalability of contact centres
A cloud-based contact centre can radically change travel organisations for the better, as they are independent of hardware, software and agent location.

They offer the ability to scale seamlessly to react to market demands, such as peak holiday booking periods, and add more/less staff when needed. We all know how seasonal the travel industry can be, but this flexibility means a company can be suitably resourced during a peak period and reduce down again for off-peak sales periods. Agents can easily work remotely as long as they have an internet connection - and this is linked to increased productivity and effectiveness of staff.

Better experience that will pay off
It's not only about this flexibility when dealing with a call but also about customers connecting with the right agent for that particular query as quickly as possible. Cloud options can ensure the customer gets the right options in the right order on the auto attendant and that the agent has the knowledge of which customer is calling. Imagine that you're a high-value valued customer of a travel-firm and that you go through an agent after a couple of tones and he/she greets you by your name... that's now possible with a service called Intelligent Call Routing.
 


Lower costs, higher returns
Another beauty of the cloud is its cost-effectiveness: businesses only need to purchase the technology, services and data storage they need - think of a 'pay as you go' system similar to mobile phone plans. For this reason, travel companies don't have to spend significant money on hardware, facilities and utilities.

Furthermore, as part of the cloud's flexibility, during off-peak booking periods for example, a company can quickly reduce its expenses by switching off some services that might not be needed during a certain period of time. These factors mean that the cloud offers lower costs and higher returns.

Constant innovation
The idea of constant innovation may sound exhausting, but it's what your customers are doing; whether they're viewing travel locations on Instagram, asking questions about travel plans via an AI chatbot, getting holiday reminders on their smartphone or giving your company reviews on Twitter.

Using cloud-technology means you're always getting access to that stream of innovation, typically at no or little extra charge - without upgrades, installs or complex integrations. It's an often under-estimated bonus of a shift to the cloud - and it means you can innovate ahead, with or behind (if you so choose) your customers.

More tactical ideas that you should already be doing:

Interaction and proactivity back on the table
Websites are, nowadays, the first point of contact where a prospective customer starts looking at when thinking of taking a holiday.

For this reason, it is crucial to keep them inspired - and to talk to them to personally satisfy any questions or doubts. This is when a service called Proactive Web Chat comes in. It allows a 'live' travel agent to pop up in the screen to try make that conversion. Customers always appreciate some proactive help!

Secured credit card transactions for a piece of mind
Travel companies deal with credit card transactions on a daily basis - and this is usually one of the biggest concerns for travel agents.

Payments become safer and more secure when moved to the cloud through encrypted solutions with backup recovery and firewalls. This is not only beneficial for the customer or travel agent but also to the business, as the move to the cloud doesn't disrupt the contact centre and there's no need to re-train agents. Furthermore, the company gains instant PCI DSS Level 1 compliance.

Cloud-based communications technology can help the travel industry in ways that were totally unexpected a few years ago. There are probably services available that many travel businesses simply don't know exist.

The technology is moving so fast. So do look into the options and find out what can suit your business. Understanding the potential and finding new ways of working can drive the incremental gains that keep one company ahead of another in a very competitive field.

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