Travel industry – a Q&A with Sarah Birch
The travel industry suffered greatly through the pandemic with huge financial losses and many people leaving permanently. As people started to travel again the industry was not able to support the volume of travellers and 2022 saw a summer of chaos and disappointed customers.
Sigma Connected is well positioned to support the sector to reengage disenfranchised customers. So with that in mind, here in the latest of our Q&A series, we caught up with Sarah Birch, our hugely experienced business development director, to talk through the benefits she feels Sigma Connected can bring to the travel industry.
Q. Hi Sarah, it’s great to have the opportunity to sit down and chat with you. Perhaps we can start by talking about just why you feel we can help organisations within the travel industry?
A. First and foremost, and this is one of the reasons we have produced our recent white paper, I feel we can support the travel industry significantly by bringing back the customer service excellence the industry was always known for, both at home and abroad.
By working in partnership with us, travel providers can also address the huge challenge they have around recruiting and retaining quality customer service staff.
I think that essentially, the travel industry has reached a critical point. Many people working in the industry exited during the pandemic as they felt their jobs were unsafe, or they moved into other, more stable industries when £7bn was lost in the sector. Coupled with the impact of Brexit, there are now not enough people in the UK to cover all the jobs available.
Many companies within travel furloughed their staff because they were the fastest and hardest hit by Covid. A large majority of overseas staff returned to their home countries and are yet to return, if at all. This has meant a shortage of people wanting to take on customer service roles.
Another issue is that customer service teams have been getting more and more contact from customers in recent months than previously experienced. There are multiple reasons and drivers for this, including concern due to previous problems experienced for example, lack of baggage handlers leading to lost luggage, cancelled journeys, extended travel requirements and a general nervousness around travel as many of us are “out of practice”.
Due to the changing circumstances, I feel Sigma Connected can bring high-quality support to the industry with our experience, knowledge and proven track record of fast and effective support for customers.
Q. And what specific support do you feel Sigma can provide?
A. It’s so important for travel companies to provide an exceptionally good quality customer experience at every touchpoint. There are many reasons for this, some obvious, but ultimately, since the Covid pandemic, travel operators now need to regain consumer confidence to bring back that much-needed loyalty. Customers crave excellent and seamless service generally but especially at the moment while they rebuild their confidence which ultimately leads to regaining their brand loyalty.
There are a lot of positive interactions needed to keep a customer loyal to a brand and to achieve this you need highly trained, engaged and experienced contact centre staff.
Q. Do you feel that our offshoring capabilities can help the travel sector?
A. If organisations want to, we can offer offshoring solutions. This comes with the benefit of a 24/7 service from our award-winning centres in South Africa.
Overall, I am confident that we can offer the travel industry an excellent level of customer service support whether that is delivered onshore or offshore. This covers things such as the management of general enquiries, and transactional-related issues but also supporting more serious complaints and complex questions.
Q. How would we recruit and train the best and most appropriate people?
A. We recruit teams specifically for the needs of the organisation we work in partnership with. We would look at what the ideal agent profile looks like, which for the travel industry, may include those who have experience or interest in travel. We have over 4000 agents across the UK and South Africa, some of whom already have this kind of experience or have friends, ex-colleagues or family members who do.
We also have a larger recruitment pool than most due to our ‘work-from-home population and the more readily available resources in South Africa. This means we are able to scale the team numbers when needed to meet the rise and fall in demand across months or seasons.
All Sigma Connected teams are trained following our partners’ training programme, in line with in-house colleagues and they have access to team leader support as well as all relevant systems including ‘knowledge banks’ to enable them to provide an exceptional customer experience every time.
Importantly, and this is really vital to build brand reputation, we recruit people who we know will offer quality human-to-human interaction and connection – ensuring an understanding of the values of the brand they are representing.
Readers who are interested to read our White Paper on what we think companies need to do to regain customer trust and loyalty in the travel sector, can download our whitepaper here.
Any readers wishing to have a further conversation, can contact Sarah through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or through her LinkedIn profile.