Exceeding customer expectations during a travel crisis


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The UK summer holiday season is finally just around the corner! After a long cold winter, consumers are now yearning for that well deserved and eagerly anticipated holiday. Flights booked, accommodation paid for, everything going to plan…?

However news last week that EasyJet is to recreate a volcanic ash cloud to test out special equipment designed to avoid the disruption caused by the Icelandic eruption in 2010, abruptly reminds us of the impact unforeseen events can have on even our best laid travel plans.

Unpredictable weather conditions can also cause massive disruption, as highlighted by the recent coverage that cruise line – Voyages to Antiquity, has shelved its entire winter 2013-14 programme in Asia after its ship was battered by torrential rain, rough seas and gale force winds in the region in January and February.

Volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes – unfortunately, such events are becoming more and more frequent, leaving consumers in the most un-predictable travel situations, often in dire need of instant, 24/7 assistance from travel companies and airlines when things go wrong. This can put a huge pressure on contact centres if companies fail to offer a consistent level of customer service across other channels – having a damaging impact on the customers experience.

The rise of e-commerce has led to a huge increase in travel purchases being made online, with research from Deloitte that shows 86% of overseas and 91% of domestic travel transactions in the UK are now “digitally influenced.” That means, even if the final purchase isn’t made online, about nine in 10 travel purchases are influenced by things like websites, social media, peer reviews and smartphone or tablet apps. Consumers are using a variety of different channels to not only book their travel but also to share their experiences – able to share their travel ‘highs’ and lows’ instantly via social media and review sites.

So how do travel companies ensure they stay ahead of the curve and provide their customers with the best customer service and experience online – especially when things don’t go to plan – exactly when they most need it?

1 Make it quick & easy for customers to find answers to common questions

Depending on their travel experience, customers may have questions before, during and after their holiday. Therefore make sure your website and other channels provide comprehensive answers – customers expect to be able to self-serve online, so investing in web self-service is a must.

2 Offer a quick service & up-date information constantly

During a crisis, consumers will need and expect a rapid response to their questions – without the added stress of waiting on hold in long phone queues. Up-dating your self-serve FAQ knowledge-base regularly with the latest information and advice will help to keep customers up-to-date on the current status of events. Providing customers with a trusted central resource of timely information can have a massive impact on a customer’s perception of a brand – helping to turn a poor experience into a positive one.

3 Join up customer service

Customers may use a different channel to communicate with a company whilst on holiday to the one they used to book a holiday back home. By having a crisis communication strategy in place you can ensure that you are able to offer the same information and advice seamlessly across all communication channels (web, mobile, social, contact-centre). Include social channels – silence during a crisis can be lethal for a company so offer the same regular up-dates across your Facebook and Twitter pages – consistency is vital.

4 Opportunity to improve

Be honest with your customers when providing up-dates, don’t leave them in the dark about what’s happening and have systems in place to record and monitor customer responses and complaints. This feedback can be an important resource to utilize and up-date your central knowledge-base, so that you can provide an ever improving service for next time a similar situation arises.

A weather crisis needn’t be a disaster for your company – those companies that have a cross-channel customer service strategy in place will be best armed to offer their customers a superior service and in-turn improve perception, advocacy and loyalty to their brand.

Find out more about Synthetix Ltd

Neldi Rautenbach
Neldi shares insight and best practice tips on multi-channel customer service from Synthetix. Synthetix is a leading provider of online customer service solutions - working with some of the world's best-known brands. Synthetix create bespoke customer service and knowledge base software that enable customers to self-serve timely, accurate and consistent answers to their questions via the web, mobile, e-mail forms, social networks and in the contact centre.


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