We were all disappointed and perhaps a little shocked by the summer of chaos in 2022 for the travel industry. However, in hindsight, perhaps the whole situation was all too predictable.
The hangover of the pandemic, which saw thousands of key workers leave the industry, left many businesses short-staffed. Businesses with stripped-down staff then had to deal with a reinvigorated demand for travel.
Whether it was airlines, hotels, airports, train services, restaurants, or entertainment venues, all tourism-related businesses felt the strain, delivering services that didn’t meet customer expectations. These businesses were susceptible to customer complaints as a result without sufficient customer service teams to placate disgruntled customers.
Perhaps the summer of 2022 was a disaster just waiting to happen.
As industry leaders reiterate the challenges of recruitment and with the travel industry’s customer service reputation plummeting, what are the longer-term implications as we look ahead to next year and beyond?
If the industry can’t resolve its customer service issues, caused in part because of stretched budgets and a shortfall in recruitment, many businesses face a tough road ahead and diminished customer loyalty.
Businesses that provide subpar services only fuel dissatisfaction and harm brand reputation.
This worrying issue concerns many brands within the tourism sector. In the past, companies in the tourism industry have been successful in establishing devoted client bases. Consider customers who frequent the same hotels year after year because they know they will receive excellent treatment, or think about how airlines build loyal customer bases through frequent flyer programs.
However, it doesn’t take much for loyal customers to change their allegiance and for a stellar reputation to disintegrate. Big names in the sector have seen their reputations suffer because of delays at airports, staff strikes, and rising travel and hotel expenses. Already disgruntled customers then face challenging, unsatisfactory customer support as they can’t get through to overloaded customer service teams to ask questions and seek compensation.
According to a recent survey, 54% of consumers would consider turning away from a brand after just one unpleasant experience.
This statistic shows an unstable market where customer loyalty can shift quickly. Brands cannot afford to provide substandard experiences in such a cutthroat environment because customers will simply go elsewhere.
Although the industry is going through a tough period right now, many businesses should use this as a chance to win back customers.
The same survey suggests that more than half the people polled see a fast, efficient, empathetic customer service experience, through social media or similar, as a potentially enticing factor that would convince them to give a brand another try.
With big brands facing faltering reputations and diminishing brand equity with consumers, there are a lot of hungry travellers and tourists whose loyalty is up for grabs. This context means whichever businesses provide excellent customer experiences and fantastic customer support have a great opportunity to steal a march on their competitors.
As the pressures of the industry worsen, there is a significant risk of employee burnout.
Overburdened and overworked employees in the travel industry, having already faced the strain of job risk and uncertainty during the pandemic, now deal with increasing customers with less staff. Customer service staff face the demoralising task of dealing with angry, disappointed customers without the colleagues, and sometimes the skills, to offer customers the service they deserve.
The looming cost-of-living crisis and external factors are only likely to exacerbate these on-the-job issues.
This collection of circumstances amounts to a situation where employee burnout within the industry is at crisis point. It threatens to further contribute to the recruitment challenge as exasperated employees leave the industry.
Employers have an obligation to help their employees and provide them with the support they need, whether it be proper training, financial help, mental health support, or better protections against unhappy customers. Any move to fill vacant positions must not come at the expense of employee care.
Unhappy, burned out, demotivated employees are less productive and engaged with work, meaning the customer experience they provide suffers.
The best way to ensure a fantastic customer experience is to ensure a happy, engaged, motivated workforce who enthusiastically perform their roles. After all, the ultimate beneficiary of content employees are the customers themselves.
Thankfully, there is a feasible solution to prevent the intertwined issues of poor customer service, diminished customer loyalty, and an impending burnout crisis.
We’ve established that providing empathetic, meaningful customer support is vital for travel businesses to regain customer loyalty through these trying times.
We’ve also identified a desperate need to ease some pressures on overworked employees in the travel industry.
Outsourcing customer care can be a fantastic, cost-effective solution to both issues.
Travel companies may access some of the most skilled and understanding customer care agents worldwide by opting to outsource through Sigma Connected.
Outsourcing can be both a short-term and long-term option for businesses facing a skills shortage, allowing them to provide the empathetic customer service customers need, even offering potential scalability to grow as business picks up.
Outsourcing will also relieve some of the burden facing current employees.
Companies in the travel industry must restore their strong consumer ties. Having skilled customer service staff available on-hand can appease disgruntled customers and build toward a better future.