It’s the summer time, so thousands of people are preparing to embark on their holidays. From the travel industry’s perspective, this is the peak time for managing customer enquiries and therefore the emphasis on delivering appropriate and timely service is vital to ensure customers receive the experience they expect from their hotel, tour operator or travel company.
One form of communication that works particularly well for the travel sector is short messaging. SMS has today become one of the favoured communication channels of choice. In fact, research shows that a staggering 98% of SMS messages are opened, compared to just 22% for email communication.
Handle Multiple Conversations
The benefits are clear; brands are able to lower the cost of each customer contact as agents are able to handle more than one text conversation at a time. Plus brands are more likely to improve satisfaction scores because 81% of consumers agree that it’s frustrating to be tied to a phone or computer to wait for assistance.
Looking at the travel industry in closer detail, research has shown that 89% of travel/hospitality brands consider mobile messaging to have a huge impact on customer service levels. Text messaging fits well with the traveller’s need for contacting a brand whenever and wherever they may be – their mobile is always to hand and so it makes contact far easier. The immediacy of SMS also allows brands to deliver urgent information, such as a sudden change in flight number or any issues relating to their travel itinerary.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of SMS to travellers is that it is far cheaper and more convenient than phone calls or web browsing when on the road, in the air, or on the seas.
One-Way Texting – Important Alerts
There are different approaches to SMS messaging, depending on what the brand is wanting to achieve. The first is ‘One-Way Texting’ – themajority of travel/hospitality companies use this in order to send important notifications or issue links to boarding passes once the traveller has checked in on their mobile.
This has in fact been around since the early 2000’s, so customers are today very familiar with receiving texts from their favourite brands. This includes receiving promotions or coupons, thank you notes or links to online surveys. It is a very effective form of marketing as it has a captive and generally receptive audience.
Two-Way Texting – Peronalised Dialogue
Another method is ‘Two-Way Texting’, which offers consumers the opportunity to be able to interact with the brand by sending a text in response. This opens up a new form of customer and brand dialogue, which is particularly useful for those customers on the move who may wish to correspondent with their travel agent, hotel or similar yet may not have immediate access to a PC, tablet or WiFi, or may simply be reluctant to spend a lot of money on costly International call rates or roaming fees.
Efficiencies through SMS Chat
For organisations looking to implement two-way texting, the question we are often asked is how the communication is managed, as the belief is that a new team of SMS-only customer service operatives is required to manage every single conversation. This isn’t necessary, as by implementing SMS chat – where SMS conversations happen within a native mobile environment – all interactions of this nature can be handled by the existing chat agents within the contact centre. No additional recruitment is required as agents are able to converse between multiple chat instances.
By connecting SMS conversations with chat agents, it is typical for them to have an omni-channel interface, meaning the entire history of the customer’s journey – regardless of the communication channel used – is accessible to the agent. This means they can deliver a greater experience as they do not have to ask clarifying questions which may have already been covered before.
Simple, Ubiquitous, Always-On
SMS should not be underestimated or overlooked: it is simple to use – most people know how to text. It provides the ability to enter into real-time communications, which is particularly important for travelling consumers who may not have access to other online means. Also, SMS is ubiquitous; it’s on every mobile. You don’t need a special app or training to use it – it’s just there.
From the brand’s perspective, agents can handle multiple conversations, creating efficiencies and cost savings. It also means that if customers require more detailed assistance, the agent has the option to send a unique link via SMS, so they can enter into a more powerful form of engagement, such as web-chat conversations, to find the answers they need.
It’s easy to see why SMS is now considered one of the most reliable forms of customer engagement available today.And when travel brands meet their customers where they are in the SMS world, they will have established a connection that travels through to the next holiday and beyond.
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