This article continues our series dedicated to service providers with the purpose of helping them target various markets and improve the sales process along the way. After discussing the best approach to medical services, we are now focusing on travel agencies and the strategy service providers should use when offering communication services.
Just like with any business, but particularly within the highly competitive travel industry, sales depend on communication and online visibility to a large extent. Traditional travel agencies are currently facing major competition from online travel companies, suppliers such as airlines, hotel, and rental companies which distribute their services through their own website, and even large Internet companies like Google, AOL and Yahoo! offering travel products and services directly to consumers. Unlike old-school travel agencies, all these competitors have greater financial and marketing resources and a large experience in running online portals.
And that’s not all. With more and more consumers using mobile devices for almost everything, traditional travel agencies are facing a new threat – mobile booking. The new mobile-only travel agencies (MTA) currently entering the market are expected to reach the mainstream market in a couple of years. This will force traditional travel agencies already cornered by online travel agencies (OTA) to adopt new technologies that allow them to become even more present on all channels and of instant help to consumers. That is why they should quicken their pace and start implementing technology that supports real-time communication with customers and partners, and thus boosts sales.
Whether it’s tour packages or bookings, traditional agencies are currently relying most of their sales activity on phone and/or online communication. With that in mind, one can easily imagine that during holiday seasons, when customer requests received online or through incoming calls are at their peak, most traditional travel agencies pretty much turn into contact centers. Which leads us to the first thing that service providers should have in mind when targeting travel agencies with communication services.
Imagine travel agencies as contact centers
By identifying a contact center’s needs, service providers can easily relate to travel agencies and build a selling strategy based on what they lack most. Travel agencies don’t even need to know how amazing and technically advanced your communication service is, so you should leave the technical arguments aside. The only thing that truly matters to them is how your solution is going to solve their communication issues.
Does it support a large number of concurrent calls? With hundreds of incoming and outgoing calls occurring at the same time, for agencies it is vital to rely on a communication system that supports huge traffic without discontinuity.
Can it sustain geographically dispersed travel agencies? When agencies are part of a network, it’s vital that offices communicate flawlessly, regardless of their location. Therefor, the communications platform in your offer must come with a feature set that minimizes geographical distance and ensures reachability at reduced operating costs: queues, local and remote agents, extension virtualization, conferencing, smart routing, customizable charging based on time intervals, best route, best channel, etc are just a couple of examples of what makes a compliant feature set.
Is it scalable and cost-effective? It’s important to give agencies the opportunity to adjust the communications platform to their fluctuating needs with little to zero effort on their side. A communications platform can be considered flexible as long as it allows users to add extensions to the system whenever needed and to pay only for the resources used. When switching from legacy telephony or from another UC system to your new communication service, investment in new infrastructure or hardware is usually an impediment. In fact, this is one of the reasons many agencies delay adopting a new communications technology. Service providers can focus on this particular issue by emphasizing the major financial relief brought by a scalable solution that requires no upfront investment and is proven to work well on the infrastructure already in place.
Is it easy to manage? This is when you can bring in the cloud advantage. A multitenant communications platform solution fits like a glove the multi-layer management found in travel agencies with branches and teams of agents. Offer the same communications platform hosted in the cloud and it will relieve the agency from the burden of troubleshooting, eliminating the need of an in-office IT department or administrator to handle implementation, maintenance, environment failure or inconsistency.
Can it increase customer satisfaction? A missed call often translates into a missed opportunity. For travel agencies, the first point of contact (usually the phone call) is key to sales conversion. At the same time, communication with the customer throughout the entire sale process is equally important. So, it’s recommended that you present the platform features that ensure these two conditions. For instance, you can emphasize how important it is to have an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) feature that supports call distribution and renders various call scenarios through customizable menus.
Point out how helpful smart routing is in distributing calls; with a set of incoming call rules based on specific filters, customers are more likely to reach the agent most capable to handle their issues or concerns. Also, with easy access to call history or call recordings, agents can easily track the relationship with customer. The latter is spared from the frustration of presenting his case every time he contacts the agency. Or, you may bring up the advanced Queue feature which, among other algorithms, allows customers to reach the last agent they talked to.
Email2fax and fax2email are two important features that will help both customers and agents easily exchange travel-related documentation. With a simple click on the contact information, a Click2Call tool facilitates phone calls between the website visitor/potential customers and the agent. The technology creates an easily accessible lane between the agency and its customers, something that will hook the lead and thus contribute to boosting sales.
Bring the money to the table
Lowering capital cost and total cost of operation is important, but it’s best that you do not bring this matter early in the discussion. Emphasize how your service improves communication with customers and increases collaboration between offices and branches. This way, the financial gain no matter how small will be perceived as a bonus.
If the agency is already using a UC platform, you can present a richer feature set and functionality. Also, you may highlight the benefits of your solution over what the agency has in place or you may pack your UC service with compatible hardware equipment at the same pricing. If UC is a first for the travel agency, it is recommended that you emphasize how your solution can minimize overall communications spend. For that you can use the argument of scalability, the pay-as-you-grow licensing, the cloud reducing the need for excessive hardware, the lack of upfront investment, the flexible charging, and so much more.
Going back to the similarity between travel agencies and contact centers from the point of view of call activities, having access to a complete overview of call flows is vital for measuring sales. Today’s UC platforms come with advanced call reports and call monitoring reflecting overall and individual call distribution and efficiency. Furthermore, most of these platforms can integrate with third-party apps that provide real-time statistics on how each agent or team of agents have managed outgoing and incoming calls. This kind of monitoring improves time management and boost sales by steaming competition within the team.
The fierce competition traditional travel agencies are now facing is forcing them not only to become mobile and reachable, but also to increase the level of customer satisfaction by responding fast and by reducing the end-user’s effort to a minimum. As long as travel agencies understand that by enabling UC they can increase collaboration and communication with the customer, within teams and between sites, the financial gain will be reflected by both lower capital cost and reduced total cost of operation.
In the hope that this blog post will help you better target travel agencies, stay tuned for a new article on e-commerce businesses and how they can benefit from your UC offering.