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A Support Quality Guide for Travel & Hospitality Companies

Customer service15 MIN READFeb 26, 2024

A Support Quality Guide for Travel & Hospitality Companies

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How do you know what defines customer service quality for your customers? While expectations can vary depending on the customer demographics and their history with your brand, a concrete factor is industry. 

Customers expect healthcare support to be more empathetic; in the financial industry, a top priority is confidentiality.

For travel and hospitality industry companies – airlines, travel agencies, and accommodation services – accuracy and efficiency are generally considered the most crucial components of quality support.

So, let’s look at why and how you can shape your support team to meet these criteria.

Nowadays, everything happens super fast all around us. So, even subconsciously, we as customers expect that if an issue occurs, it should be resolved right away.

It is therefore essential to provide fast and efficient service. To be able to do that in the travel industry, which is very complex, contrary to the belief that you should straight away know the answer, we believe you should be extra efficient instead in quickly finding the information you need and defining what alternative would be best for your customer. There are many different options in some cases, and almost none in others, so you have to be prepared to think outside of the box and very efficiently place yourself in the customer’s shoes. After all, leisure travel typically accounts for around 55% to 60% of total travel, meaning customers would expect to have a great time all the time, from booking the trip, until coming back. And you have to be with them along all the way.

Simona Peneva
Simona Peneva
Quality Manager, Ferryhopper

Support quality challenges for travel and hospitality companies

1. The dire consequences of inaccurate information.

Imagine you’re packing for your flight and contact the airline to find out if you can take a child’s stroller for free with your tickets. They confirm that this is no problem. However, it’s a different story when you get to the airport, you’re informed that you’ll need to pay an additional fee to check this in. The agent’s misinformation cost you time and money, and it potentially cost the airline your future business.

2. Compensations are a high price to pay, literally

Consider a scenario where construction work impacts the comfort of guests staying at a hotel. Several rooms are affected, with many guests requesting compensation for their inconvenience. Your support team must remain within the allocated compensation budget despite repeated complaints. Would you prioritize maintaining these guests as future customers and avoiding negative reviews, or would you be willing to absorb the additional costs?

Klaus as a hotel guest

3. The undertaking of onboarding new agents. 

In travel and hospitality, agents often need to swiftly understand specialized software and a comparatively more significant number of products and policies than in other industries. This means a more demanding onboarding process and a longer time before newcomers are fully fledged agents. Due to the frequent turnover of customer service agents in all sectors, this remains an ongoing concern.

4. There are many unique circumstances that AI and automations cannot grapple with. 

Automating part of the support flow via chatbots, smart-routing, agent assist, etc, has made a striking difference to the workload for many support teams.. Yet the travel/hospitality industry is impeded here by the mere nuance of issues that can arise during a trip. Any AI solutions have to be rigorously trained on quality data, yet the ability of these technologies to balance the complexity of issues with the range of potential solutions and consequences. Gray areas cannot be made black and white.

An Air Canada chatbot recently made headlines for erroneously telling a passenger they were liable for a refund. Despite trying to argue that the chatbot was responsible for its actions (not Air Canada), a civil-resolutions tribunal ruled in favor of the passenger. This sets a future precedent and warning to companies using AI without safeguarding for untruths.

5. Customer data must be kept confidential

Data confidentiality poses significant difficulties for support teams due to the high regulation required in this industry. The systems that handle scheduling and bookings demand stringent adherence to privacy protocols. Even what could be seen as a simple error, like sending flight confirmation to the wrong address, results in serious breaches. Contact centers must take meticulous measures to prevent data from landing in the wrong hands. 

There are three pillars that any customer support leader in the travel/hospitality industry should focus on that will improve customer satisfaction and internal quality scores (IQS):

  • Thorough onboarding and continuous coaching
  • Fluid communication throughout support tiers
  • Quality assurance program 

If you’re running a support department, you likely have all of the above in place, but are you following the best modern practices?

When hoteliers choose to use a channel manager, they opt to rely on a platform designed to streamline their business operations and increase revenues. Like many SaaS solutions, customer support is what clients rely on when they encounter issues, and quality plays a crucial role to ensure that the assistance provided is of the highest standards, delivering precise and efficient solutions to quickly resolve issues that could potentially result in revenue loss, such as overbookings.

As our platform evolves and improves at a rapid pace, it is essential for our support teams to remain up-to-date with the product. Quality is also key in this aspect, as it enables us to quickly identify any knowledge gaps and address them through continuous team training and coaching.

Similarly, for our hoteliers’ knowledge and training, effective clients’ onboarding is crucial to prevent any misuse of the platform and potential revenue loss. Quality is also essential here; the onboarding sessions are carefully monitored to ensure that tailored content is consistently delivered to our hoteliers. This guarantees proper use of the tools and reduces the need for future support contacts.

Jonathan Le Chevert
Jonathan Le Chevert
CS Training and QA Specialist, Amenitiz

Klaus in elevator

Quality is no accident

Customer service quality assurance is the practice of reviewing support conversations to improve performance and increase customer satisfaction. While customer feedback is vital, it only shows one side of the coin, as customers cannot assess agents against internal quality standards. 

This is why support teams create scorecards and review conversations against set categories to track IQS.

What is IQS? 

Your Internal Quality Score (IQS) is a metric that measures customer service performance against internal standards. By conducting conversation reviews, you can calculate and track scores by agent, team, and department levels. This is the perfect barometer by which to improve quality. 

“A quality assurance program will take into consideration the importance of accuracy and speed, and will find the exact interactions that have the potential for improvement in these areas. Quality teams bring two perspectives with the evaluations they perform, one of the customer and one of the company. These insights are super useful, as it is much more clear on what the company should focus on to achieve a better customer experience.”
Simona Peneva, Quality Manager – Ferryhopper

While smaller teams may tackle reviews and scores via spreadsheets, most larger and growing teams use dedicated quality management software to tackle QA.

Why is quality assurance important in the tourism industry?

Accuracy is one of the most critical aspects of customer service in the travel & hospitality sector. Yet, the customer cannot evaluate the accuracy of the information an agent is providing them. They don’t know the flight paths that systems like Galileo or Amadeus can provide – your agents should. They aren’t aware of package rates that travel agents are liable to offer – your agents are. 

Quality assurance is also vital for measuring compliance. For companies to safeguard against regulation penalties and hefty compensation payouts. The role of QA in the travel industry  regularly reviewing support interactions gives leaders and coaches a glimpse into agent adherence. 

Tracking quality is more than fundamental for airlines. In the early stages of my career I have worked as a consultant for a German BPO providing call center services to an Asian airline. I soon realized that quality is not just about agents having the right knowledge and giving correct information to the customers: there is a wide cultural sphere to analyze and a need of tailoring the customer experience to make sure customers would feel not only well served but also safe. Feeling safe with your airline agent is the first step to trusting the airline you are flying with.
Marco Certa
Marco Certa
Research Manager, Klaus

Best practices for customer service quality assurance in the tourism industry

  1. Create a thorough, well-defined scorecard/s to reflect company priorities.
    Check out our scorecard template for ideas.
  2. Ensure every agent – in every tier and every location – understands the quality standards.
    This is particularly important for outsourcing customer service. Whether or not the agent works directly for the company should not make a difference to the customer.
  3. Choose the right conversations to review. 
    Choosing at random is not going to provide the best interactions for learning purposes. Using a tool with smart filters, like Klaus, can help you uncover hidden gems of information. Even better? Use a tool that automates conversation scores (AutoQA) to give your reviewers a very substantial head start.
  4. Track and review data to continuously improve quality.
    This makes your support quality immune to employee churn, product changes, growth, etc.

Coach to change the game

Product knowledge, process awareness, empathy, grammar, and problem-solving – the foundation of all these (and more!) can be set up during onboarding and built upon with continuous coaching.

Make sure you cover the following to thread the coaching needle with precision: 

1. Define clear goals

Keep customer feedback and internal quality standards in mind when developing onboarding and coaching plans. Setting and clearly communicating your priorities from day one means everyone is working towards the same goals, regardless of location, tier, or team size. It also protects quality from suffering when your department grows. 

2. Pull out the data

Create engaging onboarding and coaching sessions by using support conversations to highlight areas of excellence and weak spots. Pin conversations where an agent has gone over and above to praise their strengths and showcase the example to others. On the flip side, bring up problem conversations in 1:1 sessions with agents to provide detailed feedback that helps them improve.

💫 Tools like Klaus’ AutoQA can identify the conversations that make a difference. AI-powered smart filters can pinpoint interactions with the highest learning potential automatically.

3. Set up meaningful 1:1 and group sessions

Use a combined approach to ensure that coaching efforts are routine. How you deliver feedback and advice to your team is as important as the advice itself. Personal feedback may be tough to receive and provide, but coaching is proven to positively impact employee job satisfaction and engagement. (Employment Studies)

Share effective feedback techniques with your team leads to prevent bad communication from hindering improvement.

4. Track progress and gather insights

What gets measured gets managed. Set actionable goals during each session and track quality metrics over time to detect patterns and trends (hopefully positive ones!). This isn’t just for your own records, displaying your agent’s improvements makes the coaching process less stressful and more rewarding.

Coaching & learning

Klaus coaching sessions for targeted improvements

💫 Find out how Livestorm onboards and coaches new agents so that, no matter which continent or timezone their agents are in, everyone is in sync: Livestorm’s Success Story 

The art of communication

There are two aspects to effective customer service communication: how your team speaks to customers and how your team speaks to each other. For the travel and hospitality sector in particular – with teams are spread across time zones and locations and customers demanding information fast – mastering the two will improve your support quality demonstrably. 

Support channels, aka how you talk to customers

While many other industries have seen chat support pick up the pace, the travel sector’s customers favor email and phone. One thing that many companies struggle with is when customers take to social media to air their grievances. You need only read here to see why that can spell disaster. 

So, how do you push your customers towards the best means of communication? 

The answer is simply to make it incredibly clear. Post links to the correct email address/es and phone number/s for your customers’ language and jurisdiction on every automated email and web page. An icing on the cake would display the expected reply time and contact center open hours.

Breaking the fourth wall for a minute

While researching this article, I went to the main pages of three global airlines to see how easy it was to get in touch with a customer service agent:

Airline 1
It took five clicks until I reached a page linked to messenger apps (no email or direct line numbers). This included going through a Knowledge Base, which gave no direct link to talk to a person.

Airline 2
Clicking on the customer service link on the main page leads to a field into which you type your problem. After I typed ‘I would like to speak to an agent, ‘ it offered several Knowledge Base articles, one of which led to an outdated Covid-19 information page. None of them provided direct contact with an agent – however, on each page were links to follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube 😑
Airline 3

Third time lucky! Within two clicks, I landed on a page that offered an email form, a list of in-person ticket desks, and a list of phone numbers for every country the airline operated in.

Get going with customer service Quality Reviews

Preventing internal siloes

Many players in the travel and hospitality sector rely on BPOs to handle support volume. This is in part due to the need for multilingual support. A typical setup entails outsourcing tier-one agents and employing specialized teams in-house. 

However, these multiple layers can lead to siloed departments and delayed responses. This can also mean quality discrepancies between teams, tiers, and locations. 

Providing effective internal communication is as important as external communication. Not only do you want to promote knowledge sharing, but you want to instill team camaraderie: everyone is working together.

💫 Find out how Glovo revolutionized their quality program with Klaus to bring every agent onto the same page across BPOs and borders: How Glovo uses Klaus to Maintain High Quality Support.

Improving support quality for the travel & hospitality sector (a quick recap)

  1. Customers in this sector value accuracy and efficiency above all else. 
  2. Challenges include inaccurate information, compensation management, onboarding complexities, and the limitations of AI for travel issues. 
  3. To improve support quality, focus on three things* A robust quality assurance program (the role of QA in the travel industry cannot be overstated)* Effective onboarding and coaching* Fluid communication with customers and internally
  4. Congrats, you’ve reached the end of our guide! Now, make yourself a coffee and set this advice into action. 

Written by

Author profile
Grace Cartwright
Grace is working on a book called "Everybody Should Stop Using the Same Gifs". In her spare time, she writes for Klaus.

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