Travel communication might feel like an afterthought, but it's increasingly a perk that sets agencies apart from their competitors. Stuff happens, schedules change, and life rarely goes according to plan. While most people understand this and can incorporate flexibility into their daily lives, it's harder for travelers to go with the flow. They have things to do and places to see, all in a relatively short amount of time. They're unfamiliar with their surroundings — and maybe even the language. What would ordinarily be a minor annoyance becomes traveler frustration and a waste of precious vacation time.
Seamless travel communication is the key to a great customer experience, and travel agencies know that kind of personalized, hands-on service is what sets their businesses apart from competitors and do-it-yourself booking websites.
Thanks to new communications APIs, it's now easier than ever for travel agents to promptly alert customers about itinerary changes without racking up international phone charges or interrupting clients during their vacation.
Ideal Travel Communication: SMS Status Updates
Delayed or changed flights, overbooked hotels, canceled concerts or shows — these are the kinds of issues travelers need to know about as soon as possible. Good travel agents have always tried to stay on top of these issues and inform customers as soon as possible, but traditional communication channels such as phone calls, mail, and email aren't always the most effective, especially if travelers are en route or have already arrived at their destination.
Many people purposefully avoid checking their email while on vacation. Phones must be turned off on planes, and cell reception at their destination might not be optimal. Just as importantly, answering the phone or checking emails can distract travelers from enjoying the sights and their time with family and friends. Or, in the case of business travel, it can distract them from their work or important meetings they may have.
The better option: a non-intrusive text message.
By integrating SMS APIs into a company's CRM or unified communications platform, agencies make it easier for agents to deliver urgent information through the channel customers are most likely to see first — their smartphones. This saves time spent making repeated phone calls to customers — possibly expensive international calls — and saves customers the hassle of learning about itinerary changes after they've already gone to the wrong gate at the airport or arrived at the wrong hotel.
You can't get that kind of service from Expedia or Priceline, nor can agencies deliver it without travel communication technology that works from anywhere.
Live Chat Support
Changes to travel plans aren't always an annoyance. Sometimes it's the clients who want to switch things up. Maybe they learned about a new restaurant or a great show that's in town, and they want to make a last-minute reservation. Or perhaps they need to postpone dinner for a few hours to sleep off some unexpected jet lag. Whatever the reason, they need their travel agent to help make the change, and they might not want to spend time on the phone to do it.
To make communication with travelers as seamless as possible, agencies can incorporate real-time communications APIs — voice, SMS, instant messaging, and video — into their mobile apps, corporate websites, and social media pages. Then, customers can reach out to ask questions or request schedule changes using whichever channel is most convenient for them. Plus, they know their agent is always just an SMS message or IM away.
For simple questions and requests, customers don't even need to chat with their agents personally. Other agents, contact center reps, and chatbot APIs can help pick up the slack.
Suggest Itinerary Changes
The beauty of communications APIs is that they can often be integrated with and informed by other data sources, giving travel agencies a clearer view into each traveler's experience. Then, they can make suggestions to improve that experience.
For example, a weather API may detect a bad storm brewing, which might make one customer's fishing plans a little dangerous. The agency could send them an SMS message that warns, "The weather might interfere with your plans this afternoon. Would you like us to change your boat rental reservation to tomorrow and change your theater tickets to today instead?"
Another customer's flight may have sat on the tarmac for a few hours before leaving, leading to the traveler's family being late for their dinner reservations in their destination city. Thanks to the maps built into the agency's app by APIs, the agent already knows what happened. By the time the customer lands and switches on his phone, there's a text message saying, "Sorry your flight got delayed. The restaurant is expecting you two hours later than originally planned. Enjoy your meal!"
You can't get that kind of service from Expedia or Priceline, nor can agencies deliver it without travel communication technology that works from anywhere. As communications APIs become more sophisticated, that's exactly what they do — play nice with other data sources to help agencies anticipate customer needs and deliver the right message at the right time.
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