With travel restrictions being largely alleviated, international travel is back on the agenda for holidaymakers, and their appetite is larger than ever. Many are referring to it as a surge in “Revenge Travel.” Revenge travel is a media buzzword that originated in 2021 when the world began to reopen, and people decided to make up for lost time. It is described as a huge increase in people wanting to make up for time and experiences lost to the pandemic.
With the Christmas period being predicted to be the busiest for travel since pre-pandemic, airlines are feeling the heat as planes quickly become booked out.
The pandemic fundamentally changed the pace of the aviation industry, accelerating the adoption of digital transformation and AI-powered technologies. We have entered a new era of convenience, speed and expectation, and the extent to which airlines can execute these determines their competitiveness within the market.
However, the aviation industry is currently plagued with a multitude of strains. Debt from COVID, labor shortages, striking staff, rise in plane fuel costs and the increased cost of living all pose complex challenges to the sector. It is vital for airlines to deliver a consistently superior customer experience in order to keep afloat. During these testing times, it is automation and technology that will enable them to remain close to the pulse of its customers.
The Call for Exceptional Experiences
In an oversaturated market, airlines must differentiate and establish themselves above the rest in order to win customers. Within the hostile environment, it is consistently excellent customer service which will power a company to the top.
The aviation industry has very small margins to make profit, and therefore customer experience is key for bringing in cash – which primarily relies upon customer loyalty. Convenience and speed are vital in producing this loyalty, resulting in airlines increasingly harnessing digital transformation to speed up processes and make them more streamlined. Due to the acute labor shortages across the sector, many airlines are opting to outsource their back office needs and customer service management to experienced end-to-end providers who provide an omnichannel experience.
Airlines lost more than 400,000 workers as a result of the pandemic to cut costs and keep them afloat, meaning that now, there are less staff available to tend to customers. In a world of cancellations and delays, this is an imminent issue. The outsourcing of customer service provides an immediate solution, as it allows airlines to focus on actually getting their planes off the ground and leaving customer service needs to the experienced professionals.
Some of the top outsourcing providers have been in the game a long time, investing in digital transformation within the aviation space since before the pandemic. They have also invested in solutions which enable airlines to answer the surge volumes with limited increase in headcount allowing them to drive efficiency and better customer experience. It is important for airlines to choose these experienced providers in order to implement the most robust and forward-thinking system. This will ultimately supply customers with the best possible experience.
Chatbots – the Perfect Ally
Artificial Intelligence powered solutions have become an essential aspect of streamlined customer experience within the aviation industry. Customers do not want to sit on the phone for half an hour trying to book/cancel flights or resolve their queries – they want to be able to do it in a few simple clicks of a button. According to a survey, 92% of customers now book their flights online, meaning that the process must be both convenient and fast. The airlines who take this step into the automated realm will be favoured by customers and therefore more competitive within the market. For customers, the easier it is to book a holiday, the better.
Mid office solutions and chatbots are increasingly being used to streamline operations and give customers options. In fact, 90% of businesses report large improvements in the speed of complaint resolution through implementing chatbots. By automating first-level support queries, a larger number of staff will be available to deal with more complex issues such as flight delays or cancellations.
Chatbots are at the forefront of the customer service toolkit. The perfect ally for customer support agents within the aviation industry, they allow companies to interact with customers around the clock, despite time zone differences and provide localized experience. They are built upon emotional recognition materials which indicate how a customer is feeling, enabling them to deal with customers in the most suited and effective approach. With emotions being high in the travel sector at the moment, this is crucial. Bots reduce costs for companies without compromising customer experience. The ability of the chatbots to validate information using advanced mid-office solutions will be the new tomorrow as we see it today. We are committed to make this happen and continue to invest in these solutions.
Need for Agility and ‘High-Tech, High-Touch’ Approach
While customers demand quick and efficient digital services, they also value being able to speak to a human voice when they feel it’s necessary, and they want to be listened to. Some issues within the aviation industry inevitably need to be filtered through a human, in order to reach the best possible outcome.
Therefore, although digital transformation is booming, it remains vital that airlines maintain a human element within their services. A unique combination of technology and human touch creates a blended “High Tech, High Touch” approach, and it is this critical pairing which will allow automation to accelerate businesses into the future and create differentiation between airline competitors. The human touch is what really drives customer loyalty, as an advisor has the power to build a rapport with an unhappy or dissatisfied customer, and transform their experience from a negative one into a positive.
A seamless, omnichannel experience is essential, as it allows customers to interact with advisors through their preferred mode of communication. Therefore, they have choice and take control – something which they value in an industry where they have no control over flight disruptions and delays. It is this agile mode of customer service which will determine which airlines succeed and which fail.
By getting the correct blend of advanced technology and human empathy, the aviation industry can overcome these turbulent times and keep their airlines flying high. Because each interaction matters.
Anish Kapoor is the Senior EVP for the travel, retail, new economy, and non-banking financial services at Teleperformance India, the largest branch of the multi-billion-dollar Teleperformance Group. Anish champions 25 years of experience within the travel industry and has been a part of the team at Teleperformance for 15 years. During this tenure, he has been instrumental towards building and strengthening travel capabilities and pioneering digital transformation strategies while harnessing a high-tech, high-touch approach. He has led large scale operations, business development, and operations and transformational road maps, having delivered maximized revenue and built efficiencies mapping to the long-term strategy of the organization and their travel capabilities.