How to do more with less

Doing less is nothing new to the travel industry. The past few years have been tough, and while the future is bright, travel and tourism businesses are still facing labor shortages, leading to a sharp drop in customer satisfaction.

As HR leaders face workforce shortages with recruiting tactics and budget increases, customer service teams must find ways to deliver the service the industry is known for without the added body count.

In other words… You need to do more with less.

The best way to do this is with a conversational AI platform. Whether it’s a hotel, airline, car rental company or experience provider, you can provide superior service to your customers without overburdening your support team.

Read on to learn about the state of the travel industry’s labor shortage and how you can still deliver exceptional customer service.

Travel is back, but labor is not.

In 2019, the travel and tourism industry accounted for 10 jobs worldwide. Then the pandemic hit, and the industry lost 62 million jobs overnight, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

Now that most travel restrictions, capacity and safety restrictions have been lifted, much of the world is ready to travel again. The pent-up demand has caused the travel and tourism industry to outpace overall economic growth. GDP grew by 21.7% in 2021, while the overall economy grew by just 5.8%, according to WTTC.

By 2021, travel will add 18.2 million jobs globally, making it difficult to keep up with workforce demands. In the US in 2021, 1 out of 9 jobs did not exist.

What is causing the shortage? A combination of factors.

  • Flexibility. Over the past few years, there has been a shift in mindset when it comes to work-life balance. Many people are reluctant to give up weekends and holidays with their families to work in the hospitality industry.
  • Security. Many jobs in the hospitality industry work on the front lines, interacting with the public on a regular basis. Although the pandemic has cooled in much of the world, some workers are still hesitant to work face-to-face. This goes double for older workers and those with health problems who may have either changed industries or dropped out of the workforce altogether.
  • Remote work. The pandemic has made remote work more feasible for many industries, and travel requires a lot of in-person work and interaction.

How does the labor shortage affect customer service?

As much as we try to isolate these shortfalls from impacting service, customers feel it. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, hotel guests were 2.7% less satisfied overall in 2021-2022. Airlines and car rental companies also fell by 1.3%.

While there are likely many reasons that contribute to low customer satisfaction, it cannot be denied that labor shortages have an impact.

When travel recovers, there is an opportunity to transform the industry at a fundamental level. The world is ready to travel again, but the demand is outstripping your ability to grow. While HR is hard at work recruiting new team members, it’s time to look at your operations and see what you can do to deliver superior customer service without adding to your staff.

What can a conversational AI platform do in the travel industry?

First, what is conversational AI? Conversational AI combines multiple technologies (such as machine learning and natural language processing) to enable human-like interactions between humans and computers. For your customer service team, this means there’s a partner who never sleeps, never argues, and seems to have all the answers.

A conversational AI platform like Quiq can help support your travel business’ customer service team with tools designed to speed up conversations and improve your brand experience.

In short, a conversational AI platform can help businesses in the travel industry deliver superior customer service despite current labor shortages. Here’s how.

Solve problems faster with conversational AI support.

When you’re understaffed, you can’t afford unproductive customer conversations. Messaging has its advantages over voice-based customer service.

Using natural language processing (NLP), a conversational AI platform can identify customer intent based on their actions or speech signals. For example, if a customer is stuck on the booking page, maybe they have a question about the cancellation policy. By starting with some basic customer knowledge, chatbots or human agents can enter the conversation with context and get to the root of the problem faster.

Conversational AI platforms can also direct conversations to the right agent, so agents spend less time gathering information and more time solving the problem. Additionally, the asynchronous nature of messaging means that customer service representatives can have 6-8 conversations at once instead of working individually. But conversational AI offers more opportunities for speed in customer service.

Access your customer service team at any time.

Many times, workers who leave the travel industry cite a lack of schedule flexibility as one of their reasons for leaving. Customer service doesn’t stop at 5 o’clock, and support agents end up working odd hours like weekends and holidays. Also, when understaffed, it is more difficult to cover shifts outside of normal business hours.

Chatbots can help with customer service 24/7. If you’re not already providing customer service support at any time, you can use chatbots to answer simple questions and direct more complex questions to a live agent to handle the next day. Or, if you already have employees working evening shifts, you can use chatbots to support them. You’ll need fewer human agents when your chatbot might be down.

Contact customers in any language.

Five-star experiences begin with understanding. You are in the travel business, so it is not difficult to meet people who speak different languages. When you’re short-staffed, it’s hard to ensure you have enough multilingual support agents to accommodate your customers.

Conversational AI platforms like Quiq offer translation capabilities. Customers can get the help they need in their native language, even if you don’t have a translator on staff.

Work from anywhere capabilities.

One of the main reasons for labor shortages is telecommuting. Many client-facing jobs require in-person work. It limits your workforce to people in the immediate area. The high cost of living in cities with growing tourism can drive locals out.

Moving to a remote speaking tool will expand your applicant pool beyond your immediate area. You can attract a wider pool of talented customer service agents to help you fill open positions.

Build automation to anticipate customer needs.

A great way to reduce the strain on a short-staffed customer service team. Prevent problems before they happen.

Many customer service inquiries are simple, routine questions that agents must answer every day. Questions about cancellation policies, cleaning and security measures, or special requests are common and can all be handled through automation.

Use conversational AI to create personalized messages based on behavioral or time-based triggers. Here are some examples.

  • When customers book a vacation. Automatically send them a confirmation text message with their booking information, cancellation policy and check-in procedures.
  • The day before the inspection. Send a reminder with registration procedures as well as any special request options.
  • During their vacation. Suggest tour ideas, local restaurant reservations, and more. You can even book a reservation or complete a transaction right within the messaging platform.
  • After the tourSend out a survey to gather feedback and give customers an outlet for positive or negative feedback.

By anticipating the needs of these customers, your agents won’t have to spend as much time on simple questions. And the easy ones that come up can be handled by your chatbot, leaving only the more complex tasks for your small team.

Don’t let short staffing take away from your customer service.

There are few opportunities to make something cheaper and better. Quiq is one of them. Quiq’s conversational AI platform isn’t just a one-stop solution until the job market meets the needs of the travel industry. It will actually improve your customer service experience while helping you do more with less.

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