What is customer service in travel and tourism? Quick-start guide
Global travel is booming — especially since COVID. The travel industry contributed $7.7 trillion U.S. dollars to global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022 alone.
Travelling the world is an incredible experience. And the business opportunity within the travel industry is just as impressive. But, if you’re not offering great customer service, it can be a nightmare – both for the traveller and for the business.
If you want to ensure you reap the benefits of the growing travel industry, you need to know how to provide optimal customer service. In this guide, we’ll break down how to optimise your customer service in travel and tourism so you can grow your business.
What is customer service in travel and tourism
Travel is one of the most powerful industries in the world. With billions of dollars spent annually on tourism, there's an opportunity to capitalise on the industry for customer service that stands out. But, if your customer service is failing behind in travel, then your business will fall behind.
Travel and tourism is built on the foundation of great customer service. The reason it’s different from other industries?
Customer service in travel is incredibly timely. People are moving to and fro on set timelines and schedules and one hiccup or error could send their entire trip down the drain.
So service has to be fast in order to succeed in travel. On top of that, people expect superior customer service because there’s a lot more money on the line.
Customer expectations for the travel industry experience
The average household spends about $2,100 on travel each year. When people book trips for thousands of dollars, they expect great service. If something were to go wrong, it would be an incredible loss.
In travel, customer experience is arguably more important than advertising. This is because the customer experience fuels the entire operation. If a consumer has one bad travel experience, they’re telling everyone they know. That’s why poor travellers customer service experiences on airlines blow up on social media.
But, if you’re able to offer great service, customers will spread the good news themselves. Great customer service in travel impacts word-of-mouth marketing, which can lead to exponential growth or collapse in business.
The evolution of customer service in travel
20 years ago, if you wanted to book a trip across the world, there was only one way: travel agents. You would drive across town to your brick-and-mortar travel agent, and look at your options. Then, you’d book a trip, get your tickets, and wait until it was time to show up to the airport.
Your travel agent did it all for you. Nowadays, customer service in travel is much more self-service. You can do it all right from your smartphone – no matter where you are.
Customer service within travel for 2024
10 years ago, you had to call in or wait for a response from a customer service agent. But, as technology advanced, so did the speed at which customer service teams could help people.
Consumers can now book trips quicker, analyse prices easier, and get their questions answered in seconds without having to drive 20 minutes across town – or without having to wait 10-30 minutes to get through to someone on the phone.
Thanks to technology like AI and chatbots, consumers are able to get the help they need the moment they need it. Social media allowed for even quicker responses. But, there was one problem: with so many ways to get a hold of a company, it became incredibly challenging for travel companies to manage all the conversations on different platforms.
But now, with customer service platforms like Trengo, travel companies can serve their customers instantly without letting their inquiries slip through the cracks.
Because software like this will show every single conversation in one place: whether it’s coming from email, Instagram, Facebook messenger, or from your chatbot.
Key components of effective customer service
If you want to remain competitive with your travel business, you need to offer good customer service. But, if you want to grow as a business, you need to offer customer service that goes above and beyond.
Here’s how to improve customer service in travel agency and other tourism companies:
Speed and reliability
Quick responses are a given for any successful travel business today. You need to offer fast replies to inquiries in order to be seen as reliable.
Kind and courteous
Customers don’t just want fast responses with the right information. They want to feel that you’re empathetic towards them. They need travelers customer service teams to be kind, courteous, and understanding.
This doesn’t mean your team needs to be attractive. It means you need to have great branding – and it needs to be congruent with your service. Keep a professional website, and chatbot, and ensure your team is writing and speaking professionally with customers.
Modern customer service chatbots allow you to personalise the experience for your customers automatically. You can then take those conversations and let your human support members carry on with the personalised data to serve the customer (i.e. “Are you excited for your upcoming trip to Hawaii, John?”)
Travel customer service isn’t just about your local travel agent anymore. It’s about global teams serving global customers. You need to ensure you have a diverse, multilingual team to help serve international customers.
Challenges in providing quality customer service
Good customer service isn’t a nice-to-have anymore. Consumers demand more than ever.
A Think with Google study found that great customer service is the number one factor of high-value travellers. Nearly 60% of them admit that customer service matters most to them when picking a company to travel with.
Technology has made it so service is back in the hands of the customer. If you aren’t providing great customer service, you’re going to get beaten out by the competition.
Here are a few challenges in providing quality customer service (and tips to overcome them).
The booking process has become much more technological. You need to offer fast responses to people who are comparing different travel companies. If you’re not fast, consumers will pick a competitor. Offer a chatbot that responds with personalised messages when your live support team is off the clock.
Help out exactly how consumers want it
Every customer is different. They want to be able to get the help they need how they want it. If you’re only offering one way to contact your team, you’re falling short. You need to offer multiple communication options (i.e. social media, phone number, email, live chat, etc.).
Lack of personalisation
Consumers expect more. This holds true with personalisation as well. You need to ensure you’re collecting first-party data like name, phone number, age, purchases, and booking information. Make sure you’re offering personalised advice and capturing and storing data digitally by using a platform like Trengo.
Technology’s role in enhancing customer service
Back in the day, you had to visit your local travel agency if you wanted to book a trip or ask a question about your booking. Then, you could phone in to call centres. Eventually, that moved to email. Now, technology has enabled fast-paced customer support.
In a 2023 Skift survey of travel and hospitality executives, 66% agreed that customer service was a high-priority digital investment in their business. Customer service beat out every single option, with customer engagement and retention at 60% and revenue optimisation at 55%.
If you want to provide stellar service in your travel or tourism business, then you need to leverage the right technology. Here are a few need-to-haves when it comes to customer service technology:
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Customer service software
By integrating all four of these technologies, you’ll have a proper foundation to offer great customer service to your travel customers quickly to keep them coming back for years to come.
Training and development for customer service teams
The right technology can be a major help in your customer service strategy. But, if you’re not providing adequate training to your support, it doesn’t matter how robust your technology is.
Here are some key tips to provide optimal training for your support team:
1. Effective communication
Customer service revolves around one core skill: communication. If your team isn’t able to communicate quickly and effectively, you’ll lose customers. You need to develop communication skills with your team, starting with empathetic listening and tone of voice.
Offering service that goes above and beyond for a single customer is crucial.
But, if it’s taking all day to resolve a customer’s inquiry, there’s a problem. The reality is that your team needs to be able to handle high volumes of tickets and inquiries to be productive. Otherwise, your time to resolve tickets will slow down and you’ll need to pour more resources into your support strategy.
3. Foreign language training
You also need to ensure you’re training your teams on multiple languages to ensure you can serve a global audience.
For the most part, you should always ensure your team can speak your target audience’s native language. And, you should almost always include English language training as the top secondary language. Or when your team is not there yet, rely on automation, like chatbots, that'll service customers in their own language.
Your customer service team isn’t just there to provide a friend for your customer. They’re working to solve customer problems. Your team needs to understand the fastest path to solve problems. This means having a service playbook at hand, templates to respond to customers, and an internal knowledge base that’s easy to access.
To go above and beyond, you should ensure your team has adequate knowledge of the places you’re offering travel experiences for (and can offer personalised tips).
Measuring the impact of customer service
Customer service is harder to measure than revenue. It’s not always black and white to determine how well a customer was helped.
But, it’s not impossible.
There are key metrics you can (and should) measure to determine the impact of your service:
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT): After an inquiry, ask every customer “How satisfied were you with [company] and [customer service representative]?” Give a scale of 1 to 5.
Net promoter score (NPS): This is one of the most common customer service metrics. Simply ask your customers, “How likely are you to refer us to a friend?” Then, give them a scale of 1 to 10.
Average resolution time (ART): This is simply the average amount of time it takes for your customer support team to fully resolve a customer’s inquiry. Software like Trengo can track this by individual representatives or by team.
Offer a travel experience that goes above and beyond
Travel is all about the experiences consumers have. Customer service is a major part of the travel experience – and it can make or break a trip.
If you aren’t offering great customer service as a travel or tourism company, your customers will quickly find a competitor to do business with.
By understanding the key concepts of great customer service, providing your team with the right development, and leveraging the right technology, you will be well on your way to providing exceptional service.
Deliver worldwide customer delight
Take your customer experience to the next level, and lean on the right customer service software. With Trengo, you can give your travel customers the best experience possible to ensure they keep coming back for years.
Learn more about how Trengo provides end-to-end travel experiences that lead to world-class holidays.