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I want to book my holiday with a robot: how automation can help the travel industry


As the travel sector faces a huge volume of calls, it’s worth remembering that bots have their benefits. Find out how automation can support holiday contact centre agents and improve your customer experience.

If someone said to you a few years ago that a robot would book your next holiday, you might have felt a bit spooked. Would a robot even know what the word ‘holiday’ means?

But times have changed. Technology has moved on. And so have we.

In the last 12 months, many of us spent a lot more time on the phone than ever before. You may not have booked many holidays in 2020, but you probably spent a lot of time chatting. Video meetings, Zoom quizzes, Skype birthday parties, over-the-phone doctor appointments… it’s exhausting, isn’t it?

Suddenly the thought of speaking to a bot to deal with life admin has become much more appealing. You don’t have to put on a clean jumper and a happy face – you can just get on with it and cross a task off your to-do list.

I know I’m not alone in this. In our 2020 CX report we found that COVID-19 had transformed consumer behaviour. Customers moved from phone calls to other channels to get quick answers to their queries. These included web chat, social media and virtual assistants for self-service.

When we investigated again for our CX Realities 2021 report, we found that this shift in customer behaviour had stuck. One contributor told us: “People have been using channels that they had never used before or were unaware of and they’re remaining loyal because they value it.”

So, there is customer demand for well-designed bots and virtual assistants. And companies are working to meet it, telling us: “In the future, we’d like the six main reasons a customer calls to be dealt with by a bot for greater efficiency. Our plan is to launch it bit by bit, focusing on use cases and the purpose of the call.”

Travel industry “must be 5 steps ahead of government”

These changes in customer behaviour are good news for the travel sector. Travel agencies and holiday providers have faced an influx of calls as lockdown and quarantine restrictions keep changing. Customers understandably have many questions about their holiday plans for 2021 and beyond. One travel company told us:

“Right now, people would have already bought their tickets and planned their holidays. This is no longer the case. Now with the latest news, we’re seeing a sudden influx of calls. Call centres must be five steps ahead of government decisions. There’s been an influx of calls because everyone is now panicking that they won’t be allowed to leave.”

With fresh uncertainty about when foreign holidays will be allowed to resume1, many holidaymakers are making new plans and booking up UK accommodation this summer. We have been working with a leading UK holiday rental brand to help them manage these staycation queries.

The company saw their customer contact levels increase by ten times the normal amount. With the phone lines inundated, many customers were left frustrated as they were unable to get through.

We quickly moved these inbound calls to the cloud and provided self-service options to improve the customer experience.

Bring on the bots!

Automation is an obvious solution to the travel sector’s high call demand.

Being kept on hold and longer average call-handling times are painful for both agents and customers. If people are happy to self-serve with a chatbot or Virtual Assistant, they can get a quick resolution. This allows contact centre agents to prioritise more complex calls.

Automation also empowers agents to have the most impact. If an IVR can gather basic information, for example, the agent can spend their time getting to know customers. Together they can book a holiday that suits the customer’s needs. Ultimately, this leads to greater spend per call, higher satisfaction from customers and more fulfilled agents.

How loveholidays increased agent productivity by 20%

One of the UK’s fastest growing online travel agencies is loveholidays. They’ve seen the volume of customer enquiries soar to mind-boggling levels.

“Our experience since May has seen loveholidays’ customer interaction volumes scale dramatically. Indeed, we estimate that due to unprecedented levels of contact, with customers seeking reassurance about their holidays and travel restrictions, we have actually supported the equivalent of around 12 years of contact centre work over the last four months,” said Eugene Neale, Director of CX Engineering and Business IT, in 2020.

When the pandemic hit, loveholidays’ staff had to work from home. They selected Sabio to update their on-premise contact centre to a cloud platform. We transferred more than 300 contact centre seats on to the Twilio Flex platform in under six weeks.

Alongside a whole host of helpful software and tools for loveholidays’ contact centre staff, we also introduced a bot. This bot tells customers their place in a queue when they join a webchat. The bot then asks customers to leave a phone number so that they can receive an SMS text when an agent is available. This makes life much easier for customers, who don’t have to waste time hanging around in a queue.

Despite the surge in enquiries and calls, the new cloud platform and tools such as the bot enabled the loveholidays customer service team to increase their agent productivity by 20%.

Technology and insight for the travel and leisure industry

There are many ways we can support the travel and leisure industry through this period of flux and high demand. Find out where Sabio can help guide you through the challenges.


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