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Front to end customer service: The benefits of a consistent journey

5th Nov 2013
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Understanding your offering from your customer’s perspective is the foundation of good customer service. Empathising with your customers and understanding how their needs change, depending on where they are and what they’re doing, is key to delivering services that are relevant and valued.

The corporate travel industry provides perfect case study examples of companies communicating consistently and in a timely way to groups of customers, using the most appropriate channels.

A ‘whole journey positive experience’ begins with the customer booking a trip, through providing timely updates on check in times and timetable changes; retail discounts and venue recommendations during the journey;  proactive duty of care in the event that travel is disrupted and timely follow-up after the trip. 

It is crucial for travel management companies (TMCs) to appreciate how customers consume information at different stages of their journey to enable them to provide consistent service, over the appropriate channel. For example, before setting off,  travellers are likely to check their travel details on  desktops or tablet devices. En route to the airport they are likely to use their smart phones to check for emails, texts, or social network updates alerting them to traffic jams, train stoppages, or delayed flights.

In the event of travel disruptions, customers will automatically turn to the call centre, airline website or social media sites for the latest news. Once they have arrived at their destination, corporate travellers are more likely to use tablet devices on the hotel WiFi, in conjunction with their smartphones.

The number of contact points throughout this customer journey can be therefore be varied, yet the expectation is for the traveller to receive the same consistent service levels, regardless of  the chosen mode of contact.

Therefore, TMCs and agents must be ready to push relevant information out over the most appropriate channels and, crucially, at the right point in the customer’s journey. By keeping this journey in mind, clients feel their journey has been well planned and the agent has their best interests at heart. 

Travel confirmation reminders can be delivered over email and SMS in the days before the customer departs. Route changes or delays can be texted in the two hours before check in opens. Retail discounts for airport outlets can be pushed out over SMS in the two hours between check in and departure. Three to five hours after departure an SMS and email containing directions to the hotel and recommendations for local restaurants and shopping venues can be sent to customers’ smartphones.   

TMCs and agents can even help customers to save money, by alerting them to available discounts in nearby outlets. For example, Bristol International Airport discovered that, on average, travellers spent 50% more in its tax and duty free store if they received an SMS containing a discount code between check in and departure times.

Using the appropriate channel

Portman Travel has taken an holistic approach to delivering itinerary information to its corporate travel customers, in a way that they can easily consume while they are in transit. Portman has used an integrated multichannel approach to take control back from global distribution systems and back office providers. Each touch point with the client and travellers supports Portman’s contact and business strategy and delivers a better quality experience for customers. A key part of this strategy is Portman’s ability to get the latest itinerary into travellers’ hands while they are travelling.

At the centre of Portman’s platform is a sophisticated rules engine that aggregates travel and itinerary data from multiple sources into a single view of the business traveller’s journey. The same data feeds into the system’s duty of care and risk management tools, so that consistent information is delivered to travel management staff, corporate travel bookers and travellers.

A major difference in Portman’s delivery of the whole journey customer experience is that communication is not restricted to the mobile channel. The travel management company uses an integrated technology platform to define the service experience that they want for each customer group. Once the service experience is selected, content is cascaded to relevant groups. Travellers have up to date itinerary and related travel policy information easily to hand on their mobiles and via other channels such as email, text, mobile websites and social media, as appropriate.

The client and traveller are supported throughout the trip with reliable information, delivered while they are on the move. Whichever way the traveller wishes to access information, the content, branding and experience fit together into a consistent Portman approach, from the initial booking, to the first day back in the office after a successful business trip.

Integrated, customer-defined services allow TMCs to increase the level of personalisation that they provide to business travellers. TMCs can also be more proactive in their duty of care procedures in the event that travel is disrupted for a particular group of travellers, or if individuals have a personal emergency during their trip.

Customer service managers in all industries have to stay abreast of new communication channels that increase the points at which customers can interact with their brand. It is vital to remain flexible and able to integrate new touch points into the customer service strategy.  In the travel industry, we have seen that integrating multiple data sources into a single itinerary view allows corporate travel bookers and TMCs to organise the flow of vital travel information to their travellers over the most appropriate channels. This “Front to End” approach to customer service provides access to timely information with the minimum of fuss and delivers a more positive experience for business travellers, from initial booking through to returning safely home.

Mike Atherton is CEO at Mantic Point.

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