5 COVID use cases to survive in the travel industry

Mindsay Helping Customers Together
May 7, 2020
James Eisner
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The travel industry is continuing to adapt to the COVID-19 world. A major challenge is providing timely customer support. Travel companies have seen as much as a 600% uptick in support requests over the past 3 months. 

We’ve pulled together some trends from our customers, including Iberia, Brussels Airlines, and Kilroy, that are using Mindsay’s bots to assist their customers. We found that travel companies should focus on quickly resolving these 5 issues through self-service and automation:

  • Booking modifications
  • Cancelations
  • Refunds
  • Impacted destinations
  • COVID-19 updates

“I want to modify my booking”

With countries locked down and flights grounded for the foreseeable future, many travelers are looking to change their plans. Some Mindsay customers have seen a 1000% increase (😱) in booking modification requests over the past few months.

Modifying bookings over the phone or live chat is time-consuming for customers and support agents. Given that these conversations often play out like:

Agent: “What dates would you like to change your trip to?”
Customer: “That’s an excellent question…”

There’s a lot of back-and-forths required to decide on the new dates. Not only does this arduous process take up a lot of your agents’ time, but it also increases the wait time for other customers trying to get in contact with you.

Iberia's Bot Helping with Coronavirus

“I want to cancel my booking”

Booking cancelation requests are at the top of the list when it comes to customer support requests. Much like modifications, the cancelation rules of old no longer apply. Free cancelation is the standard now.

Given customers are already bummed out about having to cancel their vacations, don’t make it worse. Instead of putting them in a phone or chat queue, provide automated self-service tools that allow them to complete the process in minutes. Making this painful process slightly easier will go a long way to ensuring that these customers remember your company in a good way once the crisis has eased up.

“Can I get a refund?”

Brussel's Airline Bot Offering Flight Voucher

After canceling their booking, customers want their money back. However, no travel company can afford to reimburse all of their customers in such a short period. Cash outflows like that mean “game over”.

The solution? Vouchers.

Instead of refunding customers with cold-hard cash, travel companies should be offering them vouchers to use on future bookings. This helps keep cash in the business so it can, you know, continue existing.  

This isn’t always the most popular thing with customers, so travel providers must make it as simple and transparent as possible. Automated self-service solutions go a long way in accomplishing this.

Rather than forcing customers to listen to “Your call is very important to us” for two hours (which puts them in a great mood when they finally get to talk to an agent), a bot can help them cancel their booking and get a voucher in a matter of minutes. While a voucher may not be ideal for some customers, the process is so easy that the overwhelming majority won’t be upset enough to call in and to demand a cash refund.

“What destinations are impacted?”

At the time of writing, this question is pretty easy to answer: every destination. That said, it wasn’t always like this nor will it be in the future.

Some places will open, potentially even by the summer. Those travelers who are sick of being trapped at home will want to know where they’re allowed (and where it’s relatively safe) to travel.

You don’t want them to book a trip to a place they can’t visit, that’s just going to add to your support headaches. Likewise, making them contact you to find out doesn’t help the cause either.

Provide customers an easily accessible list of the destinations that are “good to go” and the spots that are “no go” on a webpage and on your automated support tool (to break the suspense, I’m talking about a bot). It’ll save everyone a bunch of time.

“What’s the latest news on COVID-19?”

Lyon Airport Bot Offering COVID Information

I’m not saying that you need to be putting out World Health Organization-level COVID-19 updates. That said, you should be updating to customers on how the coronavirus is affecting your services. The last thing you want is someone booking a non-existent trip or showing up at a closed airport.

You also don’t want to force customers to search for this information. By adding this info to your automated support and self-service tools, you can spare both you and your customers a lot of problems.

Provide instant answers with bots 

Instant answers aren’t possible without either assembling the biggest army of support agents the world has ever seen or using automation. Given the climate in the travel industry right now, I’ll focus on the later.

Automation, specifically through bots, can provide customers with the instantaneous answers they’re looking for through an intuitive platform. Rather than digging through webpages, customers can ask a question and receive an answer. If the bot can’t completely handle the process, it can direct customers to the exact form or page that they were looking for. Not only does this provide a better customer experience, but it also makes self-service easier and more accessible. That means fewer chats and calls for agents and happier customers.

Making these requests a self-service process through automation should be a priority for every travel company right now. Luckily, we have just the thing to help. We’re providing free (yes, free) COVID-19 bots that will give travel companies a taste of how automation can help.

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