Along with the rest of the world, the travel industry is trying to understand the extent of the effect the coronavirus is going to have. As countries move into partial or full lockdown, trips are understandably being canceled or postponed due to uncertainties surrounding the future.
The reality of now is that everyone is looking for answers. For travel companies, it is more crucial than ever to keep on top of incoming client communication. Being proactive during this time can help to ease the workload for your team on the frontline, as well as let your clients know that you are actively working on supporting them through this.
How To Manage Client Communication and Accounts Through Coronavirus
Begin With A Team Briefing
When everyone is moving in the same direction, you achieve a lot more together. Gather your team for a briefing meeting, and get input on the strategy of what’s to happen next. Your company needs to present a united front to clients and stakeholders across all of your communication channels. To do this, everyone needs to be onboard and clear about the way forward.
During the briefing, discuss how you are going to approach common concerns that your clients are going to bring up. This could be regarding:
- Cancellations and refund requests
- Possibility of postponement
- Fine print in travel insurance
- Going ahead with reservations for trips to be held in the near future
There will likely be many more than that. Consider the context surrounding your company, your clients, and your destination to anticipate what might come up in the queries.
You are also going to need to jot down short, medium, and long term response plans to the situation as well. Without a path paving the way forward, it is will be difficult to project a sense of reassurance to your clients.
Appoint A Response Team
While your entire team needs to understand the measures you will take regarding client communication, only appointed members should respond. This could include your customer service representatives, sales team, HR, and CEO.
The head of your response team should devise an initial message to put on your website and send out to clients via email, social channels, and even SMS. It should reassure clients that you are attending to queries and will respond as soon as possible.
There is also the matter of where to start with responses. As an example, Intrepid Travel opted to ask clients to hold off from calling unless travel was scheduled for the next 48hrs, allowing them to prioritize the most urgent cases.
Following on from the analysis of common concerns that your team will be addressing during the initial crisis, consider compiling these into an FAQs document. You can then publish it online across all of your channels to assist anyone who is looking for quick answers.
Monitor All Communication Channels
Your clients are going to be contacting you across all your communication channels. Some are going to prefer to pick up the phone, while others will email or take to social media. Your response team needs to be monitoring and working on all of these to pick up every query. Don’t assume that because a specific channel is normally quiet, that it can be left unattended in the wake of the crisis.
The danger of missing out any customer service related client communication is projecting a sense of radio silence. Unfortunately, this is when things can escalate quickly, resulting in poor brand perception for your travel company.
Given the crisis situation, it is also a case of the sooner you respond, or acknowledge that you will respond shortly, the better.
Be Open, Transparent, and Authentic In Messaging
Navigating this devastating virus has meant that the world has had to figure out how to move forward. Questions are being asked, and you may not always have the answers.
What you can do is be open about the challenges your business is facing. Then communicate the path of action you are taking to solve it. Take the opportunity to outline your travel company’s response plan so that clients know you are vested in the outcome.
We are all in this together in terms of facing the unknown. Rather than over-promising or making commitments that you aren’t currently sure of, share what you currently know. Being transparent and authentic in your response is key to maintaining the client relationships you have worked so hard to build in the first place.
Provide Relief Where You Can
Unchartered territory calls for flexible business policies. When it comes to considering how to handle a query, put yourself in your customers’ shoes first. Reflect on the sort of outcome you would hope for when confronted with reversed roles.
Using examples, many airlines are now offering free flight changes or waiving the cancellation fee.
Similarly, some travel companies are offering travel credits with an extra discount for future use in a bid to lower cancellations.
Of course, you need to balance your decision with the interests of your employees and business, but practicing some leniency towards your policies under exceptional circumstances like these will not go unnoticed.
Everyone is going to be facing some sort of obstacles in the times ahead. As a travel business looking to do what’s right in the crisis, it’s important that you acknowledge the situation we’re all in, and practice empathy during client communication and account management.
Those that excel at customer support now will lay the foundation for building the type of strong relationships that carries them through this.