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Published on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Bots could help businesses bounce back

Travel contact centres have the longest hold time of any industry, according to the 2020 Talkdesk Contact Centre KPI Benchmarking Report. Here, Jay Gupta, Talkdesk senior product marketing manager explains how contact centres can overcome the challenges of home working secure bookings.

"As vaccines are rolled out across the world, many expect to see bookings increase in-line with public health and economic confidence rising. If we see this boost to the sector, businesses will have to prepare contact centres to deal with the associated rise in enquiries.

Given the difficulties of the last twelve months, with a number of staff on furlough or made redundant, recruiting additional contact centre agents to manage increased demand may not be possible.

With this in mind, travel businesses must look to alternative methods to ensure that customer enquiries are handled effectively and that they are prepared for the prospect of an increase in bookings.

Communicate early and often

Talkdesk research shows that the average hold time in the travel sector in 2020 was 25 seconds, which is a significant increase on the average of 14 seconds across a range of industries in 2019.

Following the huge number of cancellations seen across the industry in 2020, this figure is perhaps not surprising. However it presents a clear target to improve if businesses are to retain customers in the long-term.

A key step travel operators can take to improve this figure is to focus on communicating early and often with customers to negate the impact of any potential problems. Whether that is through targeted email campaigns updating customers with the latest regulations or travel advice, or focusing on digital solutions, if customers are prepared for any potential challenges it reduces the impact of a major problem developing.

Invest in digital solutions

Customers increasingly want to communicate via digital channels to have any issues resolved quickly without a voice interaction. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, companies already experienced an average of 1.5 million customer conversations a year through digital channels and that is only expected to increase.

Investing in digital channels and self-service options to prepare for an increase in enquiries will be vital to mitigate spikes in call volume and reduce waiting time. This will also free call handlers to focus on the more complex enquiries that cannot be resolved digitally and result in an overall improvement in customer experience.

Make remote working an advantage

Many sectors have been forced to adopt home working over the last year and a Gartner survey from April 2020 revealed that 80% of customer service and support leaders planned to increase long term work-from-home programmes.

The good news is that the quick adaptations companies had to make to transition to remote working are in place and these complex processes are now embedded. TAP Air Portugal is one airline that successfully shifted 200 agents to work remotely in spring 2020 and will now benefit from taking early action.

With effective home working now embedded, travel businesses can reap the benefits of reduced overheads and, in many cases, increased staff productivity.

The role of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is increasingly prominent in contact centres in the form of chat bots or voice agents. This can be vital for customer service teams that are depleted as a result of the pandemic.

Virtual assistants, for example, can direct customers to a specific part of the website of FAQ, or towards a human advisor if the query is more complex, which frees up staff to focus on more important tasks. As the technology becomes more advanced, AI can be used to predict customer behaviour, monitor advisor performance and automate responses to customer complaints.

Whatever 2021 has in store, the hope that travellers can get back to globetrotting will mean that contact centres in the travel industry will be front and centre. As we reflect on a hugely challenging year, ensuring that customer experience is prioritised at all touch points will be critical to help the industry look ahead to a sunnier outlook next year.

For more information about Talkdesk's KPI Benchmarking report, click here.

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