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Use at home agents to successfully rebook passengers

Making the change to remote work is about more than just creating a remote work policy and calling it a day.

Maintaining business continuity is critical. No matter where the agent is based, it has to be seamless to the customer.

And, in the travel and hospitality industry a lot has changed seemingly overnight.

Customer service centers are experiencing an unprecedented and overwhelming uptick in overall call volume. Some companies are struggling to adapt

Yet, it is more important than ever to respond to customer demands. Consider:

  • 94 million Americans have canceled or plan on canceling travel plans because of the coronavirus pandemic
  • 58% more customers prefer to solve urgent issues by calling for support rather than use other channels
  • 57% of customers say call support is their initial channel preference for flexible communication, wanting an opportunity to ask, explain, reason or negotiate with customer service

That’s why customer service is a critical differentiator in the travel industry. Delivering a painless experience helps protect your reputation and brand because people remember a bad experience.

In this post, you’ll learn how to help your agents provide remarkable customer service while working from home.  When you give your stay-at-home agents the tools and support they need, you can maintain the trust of both your workforce and your customers

Let’s get started…

Customer service agents overwhelmed by the volume of calls

If you call a company’s telephone number, it’s a safe bet you want to talk to a live person.

Yet, due to the coronavirus outbreak hospitality and tourism companies are finding it tough to meet the level of service consumers demand.

In fact, according to Forbes, some “airlines, hotel companies, and online travel agencies (OTAs) are telling customers, “Don’t call us, we can’t handle the volume of calls,” and in some cases disconnecting callers after hours on hold.”

It seems fair to say that most businesses — including the biggest airlines and hotels — did not have any contingency plans in place. Moving forward, both customer-facing and employee must be part of any plan.

With customer service agents unable to work from typical call centers, many agents are struggling to manage the increased workload. 

How can at-home agents continue to service customers looking to change, cancel or rebook travel from home? 

Your customers, contact centers, and the COVID-19 crisis

We don’t know how long social distancing measures will remain in place.  

What we do know is that call center agents working for hospitality and tourism companies have been working round the clock to deal with a deluge of calls from customers as they seek out the information and assistance they need in the wake of coronavirus cancellations and stay-at-home orders.

These customers are already disappointed and frustrated by being forced to cancel travel for highly anticipated events like cruises, weddings, family visits, and vacations.

To make matters worse, when they reach out to call centers they often languish on hold, sometimes for hours on end. For example, recently travelers looking to change their itineraries with Canadian airline WestJet experienced waits as long as 38 hours.

Meanwhile customer service agents are hampered by legacy customer engagement solutions that can’t keep pace with the new ways and channels upon which customers communicate, the increase in service demands, and the geographic distribution of the traditional customer base.

This comes at a time when businesses are also struggling with huge revenue losses while trying to maintain customers’ experience and often their own brand reputation.

How to deliver a remarkable customer experience: A brief guide to empowering stay-at-home agents 

An Accenture report advises, “the cornerstone of the work-from-home model is the right secure technology. To create a consistent workforce experience, companies must (where possible) replicate the contact center technology environment at home.” 

Here are a few tips on how to help your agents deliver top-notch service while working from home.

Customers want empowered agents to help them

36% of customers say the most frustrating part of a poor customer service experience is an agent that lacks the knowledge or ability to solve their issue. 

That’s why you should remove silos around the contact center. When customer service agents are able to stay in touch with the rest of the company (and each other) it makes it easier for them to find the answers they need. A collaborative contact center allows agents to access experts across the organization in order to offer first-call resolution. 

Customers want self-service options

90% of consumers expect companies to offer a self-service option according to a Microsoft report. So, offer your customers options for self-service and 24/7 support like automation and bots/IVR to find information they’re looking for. 

Although not everything can be automated, by providing options for self-service you’re lowering call center costs and giving your customers what they want. 

Customers want to resolve issues without getting disconnected

33% of consumers say resolving their issue in one interaction – no matter how long it takes  – is the most important part of a good customer service experience.

Imagine: You’ve been on hold for 45 minutes (or longer) trying to cancel your travel plans and before you reach a call center agent … you get disconnected! 

That’s why RingCentral contact center provides a 99.999% uptime so your agents can address your customer needs. 

Customers want the option to be called back

When asked what the most frustrating aspect of a customer service experience is, 34% of U.S. respondents chose “Automated Telephone System (IVR)/inability to reach a live person for customer support.”

Offer your customers queue callbacks. In other words, don’t make customers wait on hold to speak with a live agent, just hold their place in line and let them be called back when it’s their turn. 

Customers want personal attention/to not repeatedly provide information

When your customers call, do you know their name and history with your business?

Is this a VIP customer or one with gold status? Do you have their information on hand so your agents can answer, “Hi, Mrs. Smith, welcome back, are you calling about your upcoming flight to London?”

Empower your agents to create a great connection between the customer and the brand by using database/CRM pops to inform agents about which customer is reaching out and why. 

Use a contact center platform that has open APIs to connect to backend systems like CRMs, databases, and team messaging apps.

Customers want to reach the right agent, right away

43% of customers say being transferred from agent to agent during a single interaction is the second most frustrating part of a customer service experience.

That’s where skills based routing comes in handy. You can use AI to automatically classify and allocate incoming messages and connect customers to the right agent the first time.

For example, you may want to connect your customer with an agent who speaks Spanish or who specializes in irate customers. With smart routing you can assign messages accurately and automatically to agents with the right competency. By categorizing incoming messages and routing calls to the right agent based on urgency and skill, you improve response time, individual productivity, overall output, and first contact resolution. 

Customers want to connect on the channels they prefer

Meet customers on the platforms they use most.

Omni-channel is more than a buzzword. Let customers contact you on the channel of their choice by incorporating digital and social channels like messaging (Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.), in-app messaging (iOS® and Android™), social media (Facebook®, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), live chat with contextual information access, email, and consumer review portals.

Why we’re offering free access to RingCentral Office

The only thing we can be certain about right now is uncertainty.

Business leaders are wondering how to manage their workforce when physical work locations are no longer viable.

As we respond to the evolving circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis the challenge is how to offer the same level of customer support and workforce productivity when agents work from home.

Many organizations are limited by aging and inflexible premises-based Contact Center and PBX systems. 

That’s why we provide a modern cloud based customer engagement platform that improves customer satisfaction and can increase agent efficiency 25% or more.

The Takeaway

The travel industry has been hard-hit by disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, it is critical to support your work-from-home agents and give them the tools they need to help your customers as they seek out the information and assistance they need.

Today, customers value instant gratification and highly responsive service that requires minimal effort on their part. If you want to deliver a remarkable customer experience, you’ll need a remote contact center that helps you communicate, collaborate, and stay productive.

To learn more about how you can get free access to RingCentral’s  customer engagement solutions, click here

Originally published May 13, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022

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