We’ve heard the term “travel chaos” since the pandemic started. Yet, two years later, many customers are still experiencing huge disruptions to their travel itineraries and holidays. Staff shortages in airports and train stations are causing chaos across the country.  

With summer weather approaching in the UK, many are looking to make travel plans. But with such disruption still rife for these companies, the refocusing of customer service in travel industries is becoming increasingly significant.  

Staff shortages’ impact on customers

After delays and cancellations over the past two years, many people are now willing to reorganise their travel plans. Most restrictions and lockdowns have been lifted across the country, which have only made many even more eager to go on holiday. However, performance in the travel sector is still 35% lower than pre-pandemic levels. The increasing desire for people to travel could accelerate the recovery of the industry, though.  

However, there is a huge roadblock hampering the sector. Staff sickness following the pandemic, and the knock-on effect on recruitment and training of new staff, are creating huge shortages that are making airports busier. Similar staff shortages at customer service centres are also making it difficult for travellers to get the latest information on their journeys. It is a vicious cycle.  

In particular, the aviation industry is struggling. In April, British Airways and EasyJet had to cancel over 100 flights between them, which impacted up to 20,000 customers who were left to re-arrange or cancel their flights. The chaos is predicted to last another year while new staff are recruited and trained to fill the shortfall. In the meantime, technology such as AI-driven solutions can be used to ease the strain in customer service centres.  

Time to introduce technology

AI is redefining what’s possible with customer service. When staff are absent due to sickness, for example, this technology will be able to provide the latest information to customers. In turn, this “always-on support” feature will enable customer wait times to be reduced. Ultimately more tickets will be able to be answered. 

AI Customer service in travel industries

The use of automation and chatbots are great solutions that enable companies to provide the latest information to customers. This can target the issue of staff shortages and absences significantly. Customer wait times can be reduced, as AI and automation help answer high volume, low-complexity queries, such as “Is my flight delayed?”. Therefore, customer waiting time can be significantly reduced, and experiences will improve.  

The next steps

Every part of the customer journey in the flight industry can be improved. From purchasing a ticket; to checking in online; to passing through security and baggage checks; and even to the flight itself. This might seem like a challenge, but it can represent a great opportunity.  

A prime example of an excelling company with a competitive advantage, is the Spanish ferry and shipping company, Balearia. During the pandemic, Balearia introduced an omnichannel strategy to reinforce its brand image and stay in close communication with its customers. This strategy enabled passengers to access their boarding passes safely, whilst also receiving the necessary support required across any channel. This even included self-service features.  

Balearia were the first Spanish shipping company to share boarding passes via WhatsApp. This meant that passengers could avoid large crowds in ticket queues during the isolating pandemic. These measures are small steps which can help ease customers in their travel journeys.  

Travel companies that can prioritise customer experience can build customer resilience, gain loyalty and ultimately future-proof their businesses. As 61% of customers are willing to walk away from a company after just one bad experience, travel companies, in particular, can benefit significantly by investing in their CX teams.  

Furthermore, as research into AI continues to progress – such as development of better natural language processing – we should look forward to the future use of technology with customer service in travel industries. This digital progression has the potential, and even the ability, to make customer’s journeys stress-free and enjoyable. Exactly as a holiday should be. 

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