While many consumers go online to research holidays, most will end up using the phone to seek additional information or make a booking.
The winning agents are those who understand the power of listening. But do companies really know how to listen to clients?
The most effective customer service facilities or call centres are those that ask the right questions of the right people at the right time and interpret responses accordingly.
Hone listening skills
In person, you can observe facial expressions and body language to help ‘read’ customers; over the phone you have to ensure you pick up subtle clues that might, for example, tell you the difference between ‘I just want someone to listen to my complaint’ and ‘I’m looking for action from your company’.
Really listening to what clients are saying is the first step.
Understanding the crux of the call
Good customer service doesn’t mean long phone calls. Some companies are keen to keep people on the phone to find out more about them, while others focus on rapid booking processes with minimum hassle.
Your approach should reflect the objectives of the customer. If you establish that a customer wants a detailed brief on a destination’s yearly rainfall, then a longer conversation will probably be the right approach.
Conversely, someone who wants to make a fast, simple booking may become irritated with unnecessary detail.
Treat each customer as the exception
No one likes to feel they are being ‘processed’, so don’t treat everyone the same. Get under the skin of each caller, get to know what they like and what they look for in a holiday.
Try to keep a record of all conversations – there’s nothing more irritating for customers than wasting time repeating information.
Used in the right way, technology that gives you the ability to cross-reference and use information from previous interactions can be invaluable. Make clients feel important, not just one in a long line of punters.
Let your customer dictate the way you talk to them
If your customer service function is up to scratch, you should be able to communicate with customers in whichever way they choose. That might mean following up with a brief text message, or recording the details of your conversation in an email.
The point is that customers feel like individuals and are assured that your company is prepared to let them dictate communications.
Most likely customers have a range of communication preferences depending on the product, brand, time of day, or location. The travel brands that are successful are those that understand this and equip their customer service staff accordingly.
Make sure you and your staff live the brand
Excellent service over the phone means understanding the locations, the people, the trip. If you don’t, it’s hard to engage with customers or empathise with those who have complaints.
Call centre staff are a crucial touchpoint, and if they are disinterested, bored or uncommunicative, the chances are they will leave callers feeling the same.
Agents should ensure they understand the qualities of the travel brands they represent and, in turn, brands should ensure they are putting their staff at the centre of their product.
- For practical advice and more ‘How to’ features, go to www.travelweekly.co.uk/howto
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