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Sponsored Content - Meet the Modern Contact Center for Travel and Hospitality

Sponsored Content

Now more than ever, travel and hospitality companies want a reliable, agile, and flexible contact center solution that provides exceptional customer service and reduces costs. Built on the same technology that powers customer service for Amazon.comAmazon Connect is the backbone of the Modern Contact Center for Travel and Hospitality. This AWS Service, Amazon Connect, allows you to better understand your customer, predict their needs, and respond to change, while scaling to meet demand with pay-as-you-go pricing. It can be combined with several other AWS services such as Amazon Pinpoint (for message delivery) Amazon Lex (for conversational AI chatbots) and integrate with existing platforms to deliver a Modern Contact Center for Travel and Hospitality. It’s what’s next in customer service.

Travel and hospitality companies are all about personalized engagement with their customers, either travelers or guests. Without these customers, there would not be a travel and hospitality industry. The contact center is an important channel for travel and hospitality companies to engage with their customers as it’s where a company brand shows its core values.

If you think about the last time you called an airline, a hotel, or a restaurant, it probably was not to compliment them on their services. More likely, it was because you needed support, there was an inconvenience, or you wanted to have some reassurance.

Nowadays, what customers expect is fast, friendly, knowledgeable, and convenient service. Like you, I find myself spending countless time navigating convoluted voice menus and waiting on the line for a knowledgeable agent. Often, I have to authenticate myself multiple times (what was my first high school teacher’s name?); I have to repeat the same information multiple times to different agents, if I have those at hand at all (I now know my passport number by heart); I am asking to book the same search result I got on their website two minutes ago, that they magically can’t find anymore (yes, they always find a more expensive option); or, I am following the agent instructions to do something on the company website where I get completely lost (so much for user friendliness).

I can assure you this does not make me happy, and I bet it does not make you (or your customers) happy either. The agent (or three) I will get connected to is not going to be happy in this scenario either. I can assure you I will make my disappointment clear to him or her after the usual 30-minute wait.

Instead, what makes me happy is when I pick up the phone and I heard, “Hello Mr. Morin, thank you for being a loyal customer, are you calling about your reservation for the flight to Venice departing this Sunday?” Another would be, “Hi Massimo, I saw you were trying to book this sea-view room on our website, how can I assist you?” Or better, “Dear Max, I see there was mix-up with your last order: we are going to comp you the dessert on your next one. Would you like to place that same order?” This will make me start to enjoy my trip, resolve my situation, get my dinner on the way, and probably reward the supplier with a five-star rating and my loyalty.

How can AWS help?

Behind a successful contact center engagement is an integrated system that can connect the dots in a fast and empowering way, by accessing the correct data at the right time, and understanding and predicting the next actions across the engagement model.

With this in mind, we thought about what a Modern Contact Center for Travel and Hospitality, centered around Amazon Connect, the same underlying technology that powers customer service for Amazon.com, would look like. With over 70,000 agents, Amazon built their own contact center solution because it couldn’t find a service that fit its needs and ended up creating a best-in-class service that is transforming the industry. That underlying technology has revolutionized contact centers for thousands of other companies, and can now be leveraged to transform the customer service experience for travel and hospitality companies. As for those companies, travel and hospitality organizations would then focus on customers and innovating in their respected space, and let AWS worry about the technology.

Therefore, we looked at the core systems the contact center needs to integrate with, like:

  • Point of Sales system (POS)
  • Passenger Service System (PSS)
  • Property Management System (PMS)
  • Order System
  • Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)
  • Loyalty
  • Payment
  • And more

We also looked at the channels the customer can engage with – phone, voice, Alexa devices, chatbot on a mobile app or website. And, of course, the data that needs to be flowing to support the customer engagement, as well as the call center agent, to best answer customer questions. This resulted in travel and hospitality companies of all sizes being able to deploy a Modern Contact Center for Travel and Hospitality, with the help of AWS.

This system is not a mere replacement of the telephony system that you use today. It is a platform that integrates voice calls, the chat systems (Amazon Connect Chat), and the real-time voice insight engine (Amazon Contact Lens for Connect) that your agents are using to answer the calls, and expand to all the other AWS services that can support your business.

The modern contact center, build off of the Amazon Connect service, not only makes it simple to ramp up calls and start engaging customers and supporting agents working from home or anywhere in the world, but also it enables seamlessly switching to the engagement channel the customer prefers. For example, providing automated recorded messages when the agents are not online, provide instant predefined answers to high-volume or low-value transactions, or set up chatbot interaction that mimics the voice interaction as you would be when speaking to an agent.

Why Modernize Your Contact Center with AWS?

Designed from the ground up to be omnichannel, Amazon Connect provides a seamless experience across voice and chat for your customers and agents. This includes one set of tools for skills-based routing, task management, powerful real-time and historical analytics, and intuitive management tools – all with pay-as-you-go pricing. It simplifies contact center operations, improves agent efficiency, and lowers costs. You can set up a contact center in minutes that can scale to support millions of customers from the office or as a virtual contact center. This is what travel and hospitality companies need today, expecialy now when cost saving is key, and customer behaviour is changing.

We have seen evidence about the adoption of the Amazon Connect service in the latest Forrester study, where it shows that it saves 31%+ of annual cost, reduces on average 15% in handling time, and decreases 8%+ of agent call volume, all this resulting in a 241% ROI compared to other cloud contact center vendors, let alone on-premises systems.

However, when it comes to travel and hospitality, this makes more sense because of their desire not only to save cost but also to move the contact center from a cost center to a profit center, enable customer self-service, increase operational efficiency, and finally, offer exceptional customer omnichannel engagement.

With profit margins being razor thin, a call center agent is a valuable and expensive resource. Moving the contact center from a “cost center” to a “profit center” means making the agents answer only the most pressing requests, focus on non-repetitive tasks, and provide the relevant information at their fingertips. This can help make the agents happier, improve efficiency, fasten issue resolution, promote better decision making, and improve customer experience, conversion, and retention. This has been measured as a boost of revenue by over 2%, reduction of revenue loss by 5%–15% by improving retention, and contraction of revenue forfeit due to errors, replacement, and credits.

To achieve this, customer self-service is key. Offloading high volume and low-value transactions to this automated system, contextualized on the customer ID and transaction at hand, improves issues resolution, increases customer trust on the systems, and perpetuates its use. As a by-product, there is improved operational efficiency and resources utilization (the agent).

Finally, be it the check-in, placing an order, purchasing an upgrade, or something else, exceptional and consistent service, uniformity of the products and of the customer experience, and the relevancy of the information provided, needs to be such across all the touch points. This is not only about the contact center component, but also the integration in a flexible, scalable, and cost-effective data platform that supplies the information needed to process the incoming calls. The use of a sophisticated notification system for outbound engagements or follow ups, like Amazon Pinpoint, can identify what messages to send to what user, via what mechanism. The use of ML/AI functionality like Amazon Comprehend can be used for sentiment analysis, issue resolution, case management and knowledge base searches, and so on. Amazon Personalize can suggest next best actions as a recommendation of products, or suggestions of compensation and remediation.

All this can be achieved and ready to be used in AWS.

Which Travel and Hospitality Companies Have Transformed their Contact Center Experience?

Adoption of a modern contact center built on Amazon Connect has been growing in travel and hospitality. It’s reliable, scalable, and transparent to the users and the agents.

Priceline for example, was able not only to quicky migrate 1,600 agents to Amazon Connect in a couple of days, but also been able to handle a 300% increase of call volume due to COVID-related calls, set up queued customer call-backs, and reduce waiting times seamlessly and flawlessly. This is what is expected by a modern contact center system, and Amazon Connect delivered.

However, today the contact center is a strategic asset, as Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant found out. You might have never heard of it because it’s a single Mexican restaurant in Texas that found itself changing its business model from in-room dining into a take away business overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It needed an automated system to take orders, track them, and support the restaurant in an unprecedented increase of call volume. Amazon Connect enabled Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant to pivot its business overnight.

Another example is Best Western Hotels and Resorts, that not only was able to reduce its telecom expenses by over 40%, but it set Amazon Connect to be the cornerstone of its digital transformation designed to delight guests, develop agile ways of working, and create new value for guests, hotel owners, and employees. This was the goal to “uncover insights to deliver more personalized customer experiences for guests.”

A final example is Subway, which has a large customer base of people seeking nutritious meal options to enjoy. The company stood up their first contact flow with Amazon Connect in just two hours. Using Amazon Connect, it was able to decrease average handle time and costs by implementing queued callbacks for customers. Essentially, by allowing customers who have a long wait time to connect with an agent to hang up and receive a call back from Subway when they are next in line, allowing Subway to improve its operational efficiency and increase its CSAT (customer satisfaction) score.

Regardless of your line of business, if you have one or 10s of thousands of agents, or if you use it for sales, training, marketing, loyalty, recruiting, remote working, IT support, or customer support calls, what all these travel and hospitality companies have in common is: they needed to reinvent their business, they needed to support their customers, they had to cope with call spikes and infrequent requests, and they had to get quickly insights from their data to better serve their customers, their agents, and their business needs. In other words, they need to provide superior customer service at lower cost.

This is why creating a Modern Contact Center for Travel and Hospitality, makes sense.

Conclusion

There has never been a better time than now to try new systems out, and reinvent your business to adapt to this fast-changing world.

You are not alone. We have done this before, and we have also selected AWS Partners that can help. We recently released the Travel and Hospitality Partner Competency. The Competency includes AWS Partners like NLX that can integrate your contact center with all the communication channels including your website for seamless customer experience. Another is Local Measure that can help streamline contact center operations and increase agent productivity while also offering customers a personalized service. And many more. If you are in doubt, please reach out to us.

We know it is a challenging time, but more than ever, cost savings, increasing automation, self-service, and personalized engagement is what the travel and hospitality industry needs today, and this is where Amazon Connect for travel and hospitality contact center engagement can help. To learn more, visit our webpage and complete the “Get Started with AWS” form to have an AWS expert reach out to you. … and now I am off to enjoy my free dessert. : )

Learn more about creating a Modern Contact Center for Travel and Hospitality.

Learn more about how AWS is transforming the Travel and Hospitality Industry.

Author: Massimo Morin - Massimo Morin brings 20+ years of experience in the airline and hospitality industry as a developer, analyst, product designer, and business development. His core expertise is in airline pricing, distribution, revenue management, and ecommerce. Based in Boston, MA, he is now responsible for AWS engagements globally in the travel/airlines space for AWS. He graduated in Software Engineering from the University of Venice and acquired a MS of Transportation / Airline Business and Management from MIT. He is Italian by birth with a passion for cooking and has traveled the world extensively.