Excellent crisis communication management is crucial for travel companies. Much like IROPS, crisis situations are bound to arise. However, the form they take is hard to predict. Potential crises can arrive as natural disasters, pandemics, self-inflicted mistakes, and anything in-between.
The best example of a crisis that has had an unprecedented impact on the travel industry is COVID-19. This pandemic has thrown the travel industry into disarray. While most travel companies had a crisis management plan in place, things can change quickly once a crisis hits. In spite of the preparations, most travel companies weren’t prepared to deal with the impact of COVID-19.
Since the coronavirus crisis began, travel support teams have seen up to a 600% increase in requests. From keeping consistent messaging to dealing with the sheer volume of questions, there are a lot of aspects to manage. As travel companies are forced to downsize, support and crisis teams are managing the situation with a shrinking number of team members.
This is where bots come into the picture. Intelligent, AI-powered virtual assistants can play a key role in helping travel companies address many of these issues. With the right automation strategy, these companies would be in a much better position to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
While crises are unpredictable by nature, many of the questions that customers will be asking are not. That said, manually resolving every question over the phone, on social media, or via email is an overwhelming endeavor for support teams and a disappointing experience for customers who are forced to wait for hours to get information.
Furthermore, with support agents under enormous strain and information changing every hour, it’s challenging to ensure that the information that’s being shared with customers remains consistent.
A bot shouldn’t be tasked with replacing a travel company’s entire support team. However, bots are more than capable of answering the common crisis-related questions that can account for up to 45% of the total volume. In doing so, bots provide numerous benefits to support and crisis management teams.
First and foremost, bots are available to supply instant answers around-the-clock. Secondly, support teams have full control over a bot’s responses. That means that a bot will provide consistent information to each customer it interacts with.
Of course, customers will sometimes have more specific or urgent requests. When that happens, a bot will ask additional questions to allow human agents to better prioritize and resolve them.
It’s not always possible to centralize all of your crisis communication resources in one place. However, ensuring updates reach internal and external users is as important as it is challenging.
In the past, email has been the preferred method to share this information. The problem with emails is that they are easily lost and forgotten, especially given the volume of messages people receive from companies during a crisis.
Bots help keep information accessible so customers and employees can stay up-to-date on the situation. In addition to answering common questions, a bot can direct users to key crisis communication resources that would otherwise be challenging to find. Since these resources are meant to communicate the latest updates and address many of the questions customers may have, making them easily accessible through a bot helps further reduce the number of people trying to contact the support center.
Some crisis messages are especially urgent. Some common examples include flight delays, tour modifications, and hotel cancellations. Travel companies don’t want their customers to discover that their flight has been canceled or delayed when they arrive at the airport.
Push notifications are a great way to proactively alert customers to changes that directly affect them. Bots are capable of sending customers push notifications when an urgent or important change takes place.
While a useful tool, it’s key not to overuse push notifications. 94% of customers don’t mind receiving a push notification each week but only 63% will tolerate two. So, make sure they’re reserved for only top-priority communications and are short and to the point.
Bots can play a valuable role in travel companies’ crisis response strategies. However, this scenario only scratches the surface of the value a bot can bring.
Post-crisis, bots will continue to be valuable assets. Given that it may take some time for travelers to return to pre-crisis volumes, travel companies will still need to focus on keeping their costs down. Bots can remain a valuable frontline support tool, helping keep support teams lean and efficient without sacrificing service quality.
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