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For the Travel Contact Center, How Important Are Apps?

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travel agentThe percentage of customers who are dialing travel contact centers from landline phones has dropped substantially. Thanks to internet-enabled devices, customers are now booking trips and making or changing reservations from their smartphones and other mobile devices.

The customer experience has become a key competitive differentiator in the travel industry. With countless providers selling airline tickets, hotel rooms, cruises, tours, and other travel products at deeply discounted prices, there is no shortage of budget-friendly options. Today’s customers are now looking for more than just discounts. They want low-effort, personalized interactions that don’t waste their time. By focusing on offering better CX, consumers become returning customers and tell others about their positive experiences. In other words, great service builds valuable customer loyalty and retention.

With more than half of all American adults now using smartphones, travel contact centers must offer fast, easy, and effective mobile CX. This means leveraging mobile applications to support improved customer journeys.

Mobile Apps Start the Customer Journey
Typically, a mobile app is where customers’ journeys begin before obtaining assisted-service from a contact center agent. This offers a clear opportunity to offer more personalized service because the customer is signed in through the app. For example, a customer can access the most current hotel rates on an app and be connected to an agent who has context for the call before answering it so that there is no need to repeat account information or the issue. The agent can also make suggestions based upon the information obtained from the customer’s time using the app. From the company’s perspective, an app can reduce call times and call volumes while also improving customer satisfaction. This ultimately reduces costs on staffing and other contact center expenditures.

Linking Self-Service with the Contact Center with an App
With customers now preferring self-service over assisted-service channels, companies run the risk of creating a less-than-personal customer experience. There is also the challenge of offering a seamless way for customers to cross over to assisted-service when they want to escalate an issue or have questions that can’t be answered via self-service.

One solution that integrates self and assisted-service to deliver better CX is a conversation bridge that can be embedded into a travel contact center mobile app. With this solution, customers at any time during their self-service interaction can tap for a call back or tap for a chat session to gain immediate access to a contact center agent.

There are also a variety of new technologies being introduced to improve the effectiveness of mobile apps that perfectly align with the travel industry. The most promising of these are using video, social media, and SMS text to gather and process transactional data gathered from the mobile app to improve the customer experience.

Many industry experts believe that the next “must-have” for customers is a cloud-based visual interactive voice response (IVR) system to enable mobile phone users to choose voice and non-voice channels with just a swipe of a finger. With all of these new technologies, the focus is clearly on making the customer experience easier and more personalized.

The Channel of Cross Channel Journeys
Although mobile apps and other digital channels certainly provide more options for customers, they can only be effective if there is integration between them, as well as collaboration between departments such as customer service, IT, and marketing. Without a clear implementation plan, customers can find themselves getting dropped, lost, or frustrated by having to repeat their account information and issue. Thus, before launching any mobile app, it’s wise to first embrace a top-down directed omnichannel strategy. This typically means upgrading infrastructure to support cross-channel journeys, evaluating processes, and identifying weak areas that prevent seamless engagement. From there, apps can be developed based on the specifics of what customers truly need. By taking this approach, mobile apps become an integral part of the customer journey rather than just an afterthought that is not effectively integrated with other service channels.

Supporting Travel Customers Wherever They Go
When developed, managed, and integrated properly, a mobile app can be a key service channel for busy, on-the-go travel customers who are increasingly unlikely to be calling from a home landline. When you really think about it, mobile apps are an ideal CX solution for the travel industry because they are at customers’ fingertips wherever they are, whether that’s traveling for business or pleasure. Fast-moving decisions can be made via mobile apps when prices drop on a flight or a hotel room. And they can help deliver proactive messages when there are changes to existing reservations. The result is better service, more sales, and happier customers.