What is the current state of the travel & mobility industry in terms of customer service digitization?
How did the digitization of customer service develop in the past five years?
What are future plans of the companies regarding digitization of customer service units?
How has digitization of customer service in the industry changed due to the coronavirus–lockdown?
Answers to the first three questions are provided by the results of the online survey “Digitization in Customer Service”, conducted in February 2020 by Dr. Fried & Partner (see Part I for a brief description of the results). Comparing the results of the online survey of 2015 a 5-year trend was able to be established.
In order to also ascertain the developments in the industry over the last few months, in September 2020 Dr. Fried & Partner held expert discussions with some of the respondents of the online survey on the subject of “Digitization of Customer Service and coronavirus lockdown” (for a brief description of the results, see Part II).
Digitization is seen as the second most important challenge in the ranking for customer service units in the travel & mobility industry. Quality enhancement continues to top the list with an increase of seven percentage points. Compared to the study in 2015 “cost reduction” was classified as significantly less important in this year´s ranking .
Streamlining internal procedures and shortening response times are cited as particularly positive effects of digitization. The highest increase in approval compared to 2015 is achieved by the rising demand for qualified employees (+35%). As a result, customers and partners can become more efficient in terms of quality as digitization progresses. In addition, the study participants do not expect a reduction in the number of customer service employees or a decrease in the volume of contacts across all channels in the future.
A clear majority of the respondents confirm their support for the digital transformation by implementing a consistent digital strategy in their customer service units. In comparison to the study’s results in 2015, customer service now plays a more important role within the company as a driver or supporter.
According to the participants of the study, there is a strong need for action, particularly with regard to “internal digitization”. For instance, one third of all respondents planned to make greater use of CRM systems, business intelligence and workflow management.
Optimistic forecast for the increasing level of internal and external digitization
Forecasts of the realized degree of external digitization for 2020 were much more optimistic in 2015 than they actually were. All units surveyed currently use e-mail and telephone for customer and partner support.
Nevertheless, the forecasts for developments in internal and external digitization over the next five years remain optimistic. Those surveyed were of the opinion that particularly, channels like Instant Messenger & Messenger Apps, Customer Service via App and Chatbots will increase significantly in volume.
Harmonization of system landscapes/ technical solutions and development of internal resources as key to digital transformation
To master the challenges of external digitization, system landscapes must be harmonized or technical solutions created, and internal resources established. In addition, increasing acceptance by end customers and the digital transformation of business partners and suppliers is of significant relevance.
Irrespective of the existence of a strategy, those responsible for customer service units found themselves to accelerate or initiate digital projects during the lockdown (e.g. enable customer service employees, too, to work from home, active use of collaboration tools, semi-automated communication with customers/partners, shifting from telephone to asynchronous communication channels) in order to best meet the employees’ new situation and the increased contact volume.
Both, a “digital foundation” – meaning the availability of tools (e.g. collaboration tools, knowledge management solutions, e-mail management systems) – and the experience from previous crises proved to be particularly helpful in order to react faster to crisis situations.
During the pandemic, some customer support units had to considerably reduce their service (e.g. reduction of opening hours, focus on written requests). This allowed the volume of contacts to be processed successively. Only a few units were able to scale up their maximum processable contact volume significantly through automated processes (e.g. chat bots, self-service tools, partially automated e-mail processing) or the integration of external service providers.
An increase in flexibility and hybrid working models (working from home and office hours) have become much more important in recent months. The expansion of customer-specific multi-channel offerings has also turned out to be an important success factor for customer service units during the coronavirus crisis.
Along with corporate governance and culture, rapid/agile implementation of digital approaches in customer service units are considered central success factors in handling crisis situations within customer service.
Digitization in customer service in the travel & mobility industry is becoming increasingly important and the digital transformation in these units will certainly continue to be actively pursued in the coming years. Past months have shown that an increased level of digitization can also offer opportunities for companies, employees, customers and partners. Now it is on the customer service managers to expand the “achievements” of the coronavirus crisis and not – if at all possible – fall back into “old” patterns of behaviour.
You can also find this article in the trade journal Travelnews.
We are happy to share with you an electronic copy of our study. You may contact us by using the contact form. We will get in touch with you immediately.