Travel Bookings On The Up, Contact Centres Need to Provide The Best CX according to Nino Reina, Business Development Manager, at QStory
As the travel industry sees a bright light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, now more than ever the sector has to ensure the best possible customer service 
Technology has to play an important role in helping to keep up with changing and increasing expectations of customers

The last few months have had a huge impact on almost every aspect of our lives, the way we live and work have changed fundamentally and are unlikely to go back to the way it was. The nature of the pandemic has meant of course that the travel sector has been impacted more than most with serious consequences. However, with restrictions slowly being lifted the sector has started to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the past few days, as the restrictions to various locations have been lifted and quarantines dropped, we have seen a rush as the public, fed-up with the four walls around them, look to book a get-away. Indeed, Eurotunnel confirmed that they had recently taken more bookings in one day than they had all year and had to draft extra people in to answer, “very busy” phone lines. Skyscanner also reported bookings jumping by nearly 40 percent as holidaymakers race to secure their spot in the sun.

Whilst this is all hugely encouraging for the sector there are some issues that have to remain front of mind. Even before the crisis, travel firms were under pressure and there were some high-profile casualties. The current situation has only increased pressure on the sector which was already under some considerable strain. Customers were changing the way that they dealt with the sector and their expectations in terms of customer service and contact centres had grown substantially. The sector was already facing up to these expectations before COVID-19 struck.

However, the acceleration of trends that those in the travel industry have been considering, but not actioning, over the past few months have had to be adopted with immediate effect. One of these is remote working; something that too many in the travel sector were not considering seriously pre-COVID-19, and beyond this hybrid workforces, with some returning to office environments as restrictions are slowly lifted, whilst others remain working at home. This in itself is an issue that can cause issues for the travel sector, whilst offering real opportunities for change as Nino Reina – Business Development Manager, at QStory explains.

“The last few months have been traumatic for the travel sector,” said Reina. “Whilst there are some signs of recovery and hopes are beginning to rise about a light at the end of the tunnel for the sector it is important that we take on board some of the lessons learnt during this period and embrace some of the pre-pandemic trends that have been accelerated over the last few months.

“Like many sectors the travel industry was already wrestling with an increase in the expectations from customers. Now used to having online and digital experiences with the likes of Amazon, where communication is constant and services and items delivered exceptionally quickly, it is crucial that the sector ensures that it is keeping pace.

“The pandemic was a real test for customer services as consumers, worried about booked holidays and flights, needed the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, all at a time when many contact centre agents were working at home. Indeed, one large travel company partly blamed delays on full refunds on the fact that they had ‘temporarily reduced staffing across the business and limited teams available due to our retail shops and contact centre offices being closed with many of our colleagues working at home’. Undoubtedly it has been a testing time.

“However, as we have seen over the past few days and weeks it seems that we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The huge surge in bookings will also bring about new challenges. From a case where most employees were working from homes contact centres will now be starting to allow some colleagues back into offices, others will be remaining at home. Overcoming this new challenge of a hybrid workforce, whilst dealing with a new surge in enquiries is the latest challenge.

“Making this transition is not always straightforward. It requires changes to technology, infrastructure and attitude. Most importantly, businesses need software platforms which ensure remote working staff have all the support and oversight they would have received in the office, whilst ensuring that those back in the office are not forgotten.

“When done well, with the right technical support, remote working offers a way to minimise costs while maximising performance. For companies who survive the crisis and emerge out of the other side it could transform their ways of working and give them a platform for the next decade,” concluded Reina.