The digital age, it’s said, has helped create a renaissance of sorts in travel, much like those cultural and artistic ones in history that have transformed so many people’s lives for the better. Many individuals and families of more modest means are able to travel more, whether within their own backyard or to far-flung places, due to online access to low-cost travel deals and to new, money-saving travel products like basic economy seats. And countries, cities, and places of interest that were not even considered as destinations for the longest time by average travelers are now able to profit from their tourism due to increased online visibility and reach.
Even though travelers book most of their trips through computers nowadays, people are still at the heart of the travel business. And call centers are where you’ll find a lot of these knowledgeable, caring travel agents.
They’re eager to field your phone calls when you need some help, whether you’re trying to decide among an array of choices or booking a complex, multi-leg vacation So let’s take a little, nostalgically-tinged trip, shall we, through the travel biz, touching on how it has changed in important ways, and highlighting how the call center is still part of the big picture.
In the Past, the Local Travel Agent Was the World
Decades ago, if you wanted to fly across the country or take a cruise around the world, you’d have to consult with a travel agency. This usually meant scheduling a formal appointment with a travel agent or taking the chance to be seen by an agency on a walk-in basis. Surrounded by colorful posters and brochures of exotic locales, the travel agent would offer you whatever information they had on-hand. And then you’d have to give them your order for tickets and wait to see if you got your trip.
If working with a travel agency wasn’t plausible, the range of options you’d have would be severely limited. If you required an airline ticket or hotel reservation far from home, chances were that only a travel agent could procure it for you. Other possible options would have been to purchase flight tickets over the telephone or at the airline desk at the airport. As for hotel reservations, you’d have to call the hotel yourself, and hope that the front desk receptionist was well-informed about room rates.
Today, You’ve Got the World in the Palm of Your Hand
The rise of online travel blogs and easily accessible travel information in conjunction with online booking websites really increased travel, with many new people becoming regular travelers. Airline, hotel, tour group, and rental car information is now available on a wide scale and a continuous basis. News of advance sales, discounts, and a veritable plethora of travel options – and low-cost bargains – are all at your fingertips. All of this has meant that you’ve got the world in the palm of your hand with your pick of deals!
While there may not be anyone sitting right across from you to answer your questions about a deal before you provide your credit card number, you’re just so happy, quite content, to grab that last discounted plane ticket or hotel suite before a busy holiday weekend.
Being able to “get it yourself” is a time-saving measure busy professionals require. Booking a lower fare on one’s own without the assistance of a travel agent, gives a novice traveler a feeling of confidence before they’ve even left home. Or so we thought…
Help Is Still Just A Call, or A Live Chat Away
While the reality of online bookings has led to an increase in travel, it can also present its own obstacles to success. You can navigate between flights, rooms, car rentals, and rates quick enough, but the influx of all these online booking options have brought a dizzying array of choices and complexities that can sometimes overwhelm and frustrate even the savviest travelers among us. Indeed, you may feel that it takes more time to decide on which travel site to use for your travel booking. No matter how appealing a well-designed website is to potential ticket buyers, sometimes you just need that human touch, to talk with someone before you purchase your trip, to ask a few questions. And, as you know, not every question can be answered by a bot!
Certain segments of the population like baby boomers are not avid users of online resources and booking for travel according to recent research by AARP, which must mean that they prefer to speak with a knowledgeable travel agent.
It has been shown time and time again that the key to customer service is someone who understands the needs of the consumer. While consumers are content to buy online, they still want to ask questions or request much-needed information from travel agents over the phone. Furthermore, in today’s demanding 24/7 world, they desire the ability to reach a friendly and helpful reservation agent whenever the mood strikes them.
Benefits of Call Centers in the Travel Industry
1. Speaking to an agent in “real time” is the most efficient method for exploring vacation packages and multi-city flight arrangements. Last-minute reservations, ticket changes, and upgrades to existing reservations are always less daunting when handled by a personable phone agent. Don’t expect everyone to have access to computers, possess a secure online connection, or feel comfortable making purchases over the Internet. In this regard, senior citizens who travel extensively during their retirement years still enjoy making reservations “the old-fashioned way.”
2. Simply providing a kind voice offering compassion (when appropriate) is important to maintain brand loyalty and garner heartfelt “word of mouth” or social media-based recommendations. And that kind voice is often needed when booking a last-minute ticket for a customer to attend an out-of-town funeral, or dealing with some family emergency miles from home. Also, call center agents often have travel options at their fingertips that reduce the stress and unanticipated expense of travel during these difficult times.
3. While it’s certainly not realistic to expect call center agents to reinstate travel plans during airport emergencies or weather delays, speaking with a knowledgeable individual can improve consumer morale and positive brand awareness. After all, there’s nothing more counterproductive than having a frustrated traveler who believes that no one at the corporate level cares about their discomfort. Worse yet is an angry customer who takes to social media to vent their frustrations, facilitating a wave of bad publicity.
4. 24/7 call centers enhance the consumer experience no matter how travelers ultimately choose to book their reservations. Phone assistance is both time-flexible and uniquely positioned to work with a myriad of telecommunication devices. When in communication with a client, it doesn’t matter whether the caller is phoning from home on a land-line telephone or on their mobile phone while in transit.
5. Call center agents can additionally be reached when participating in an online “Chat” session. This allows consumers the best of all worlds when researching their travel plans and making phone or online reservations. Prospective ticket buyers are able to speak on the phone with an agent, while visually looking at online fares, photographs, videos, and reviews of available hotels.
Call Centers Will Continue to Benefit Travelers and the Travel Industry for Many Years to Come
Everyone needs a friend to bounce ideas off of, enthusiastically listen to their travel plans, and offer educated advice. Well-trained call center agents are equipped with the expertise to offer the direct support you require, whether you ultimately book your trip on your own or with their assistance. Call center agents are available on a 24/7 basis, meeting the needs of a round-the-clock world of travel consumers. Agents are trained to listen, learn more about a caller’s interests and formulate a personalized travel plan that takes into consideration their inquiries and needs. All parties benefit when prospective clients are referred to new locales, all-inclusive tours, and alternative arrangements.
So whether you need help with making a booking or in resolving a travel problem or just need an experienced travel agent to get some travel advice from, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or start a live chat. Your friendly agent will be happy to help.
How often do you use a travel agent to help you with each of your trips? Let us know in the comments.