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Perspectives

Prepare for an economic downturn by investing in human experience

Travel and hospitality companies are historically among the first to feel the pinch when an economic downturn hits. Instead of shying away from new investments during challenging times, organizations should consider a multifaceted approach that includes aggressive cost-cutting measures combined with smart reinvestment in human experience (HX). By rethinking their customer service approach, companies can unlock savings that will fund human experience enhancements that can increase customer, employee and partner satisfaction and help maximize growth and profitability over the long term.

Why travel and hospitality companies need to act now

The threat of an impending downturn amplifies how important it is for travel and hospitality companies to rethink their interactions with customers. One place to start is contact center optimization.

Many organizations view the contact center as a costly but necessary vehicle to complete transactions, support customer inquiries, and handle a myriad of other customer-related requests.

Travel and hospitality companies may want to reconsider how they address contact volume, agent efficiency, contact center technology, and location, which are among the places where companies can find savings.

  • Volume: “Right-channeling” directs customers to the channel best suited to a given interaction, reducing repeat or transferred calls, and increasing customer satisfaction. 
  • Efficiency: As agents address the more complex contacts not resolved via self-service or “virtual agents,” investment in CRM and AI technology—as well as new operating and service models—helps increase agent efficiency.
  • Technology: The adoption of innovative cloud technology platforms reduces the high fixed costs of legacy systems. 
  • Location: Leading companies are reevaluating contact center location and service models.

Seeking savings in these areas has the dual benefit of driving cost efficiency while also increasing service levels by providing greater optionality, increased efficiency, and enhanced relevancy for customers.

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Charging into uncertainty

Putting the savings to use: Elevating the human experience

If cost saving measures create the means for investment, where should investment be directed? Investing some right back into human experience, such as through ecosystem partnerships or the technology for personal interactions with customers at scale, is a strategy that can help make the benefits last. Central to this is the knowledge that experience is a human phenomenon that can benefit from enhancements on the personal level. Consider these three approaches:

  1. Human to human: Of all the investments a company can make in HX, perhaps the most vital one is free: the human connection. The human experience centers on customers but extends beyond them to include a company’s workforce and its partners in the ecosystem. For example, contact center and front-line employees feel more confident and significant when they have the tools and information to excel at their jobs. The enhancement of positive experiences becomes a self-reinforcing cycle, supported and “seeded” by the tools that employees use daily.
  2. Different companies, same goals: The rise in travel platforms, which aggregate products and services to better serve customer needs, demonstrates how a company can create a more unified and personalized experience for customers throughout their travel journey. One leading online vacation rental company joined forces with ridesharing, grocery delivery, and on-demand childcare services to ensure that vacationers can access everything they need through the vacation rental company’s app.
  3. Human warmth at industrial scale: An investment in creating relevant, personal interactions at scale is a challenge that can take a variety of forms. Some companies turn to behavior analytics technologies that assist agents in real time by interpreting key words or even tone of voice to advise appropriate responses. This enrichment goes a step further when the contact center engages customers in a proactive way.

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Shaving 10 seconds off a contact center’s average handle time won’t pay off in the long term if it leaves a customer dissatisfied with the outcome.

Evaluating contact center optimization opportunities

Unlocking the resources to invest in HX starts with a hard look at contact center operations, beginning with understanding what configuration choices a company needs to make. The Deloitte 2019 Contact Center Survey identifies several key benchmarking areas that can help with that evaluation:

  • Handle time: Shift the mix of contacts away from simple contacts to more complex ones that deliver more value even if that means more time on the line.
  • Channel mix: Finding a mix of channels that reduces shifts and makes the remaining ones smoother and more intelligent can create a virtuous cycle in which customers reach out in ways that are right for both them and the company.
  • Cost per call: How does a company’s cost per voice call compare to others’ in the industry? Most organizations should strive for less than $5 per call.
  • Global distribution of contacts: Most companies have a mix of contacts across captive and outsourced suppliers. The distribution matters.
  • Overall volume: According to the Deloitte survey, 93 percent of consumer and industrial product executives said they expect contact volume to remain constant or increase in the next two years.

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More than 90 percent of respondents said improving contact center human experience—not just cost, not just handle time—was a strategic focus.
Source: The Deloitte 2019 Contact Center Survey

Investing in the future

Focusing on contact center optimization and customer experience is a wise avenue to consider as a potential downturn appears on the horizon for travel and hospitality companies. But planning just to survive is never enough. Thriving requires investing in human experience beyond the contact center, creating a human connection that results in enhanced consumer loyalty that drives sustained business results. This is why travel companies should look at their contact centers now—first to identify savings, and then to invest those savings for long-term growth.

Download: Charging into uncertainty: The secret to thriving—and not simply surviving—in the face of a downturn is investing in human experience

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