Travel customer service: balancing quality and volume

Oct 2, 2019

We discuss new ways to balance between and volume in customer service and sales operations for travel businesses.



The travel industry is full of ups and downs in demand: sometimes the peaks follow the seasons, other times they are related to weekends or specific holidays. Whatever the reason, travel companies always have to play a difficult game of balancing the number of people they have on staff with the highs and lows in demand.

In some areas, this can be easily achieved with temporary staff that is hired only to cover the peaks. With a few exceptions, the seasonal staff is usually made up of people that aren’t yet qualified or experienced enough to be hired in full-time jobs and that take up the position as a temporary solution.

Quality staff can be expensive

The challenge with hiring temporary staff is that it is hard to achieve consistency and quality. The reason is that the staff tends to only stay with the company for a season before moving on to more stable jobs and therefore does not really have time to gain experience.

In some parts of the industry, this is partly compensated by paying higher than average salaries to make the job more attractive and ensure people come back year after year to work with the company. This can be a good solution, but it does end up eroding the cost savings that are achieved by not hiring full-time workers.

In fact, regardless of the approach chosen the situation will ultimately boil down to an issue of cost. Well-trained, experienced staff costs money and, in theory, a travel business that wants to be successful should hire enough high-quality staff to cover even the highest peaks of demand.

Finding the right balance

For areas like customer service and sales, technology can enable a novel way to approach the problem. In these areas, the vast majority of interactions follow a standard pattern, with customers asking similar questions and receiving similar answers.

They are areas where the unique skills of experienced staff members are only really needed to handle edge-cases where an unusual problem appears or the company needs to deal with a very high-value client. As a consequence it is entirely feasible for a company to leverage chatbots to provide the first line of customer and sales support, only engaging the experienced, human staff when the situation exceeds their programming.

With a chatbot + human set up, a travel company can significantly reduce its cost and focus on hiring and training only a small number of high-quality professionals to handle edge cases. Chatbots can easily handle multiple conversations at the same time, eliminating delays, providing 24/7 service, and significantly reducing the workload of their human colleagues.

It is a tried and true method that is already used in many other industries and could revolutionize the cost-structure of tourism businesses.

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