Agents who act like robots will lose against the real robots.
That was the view of Travel Counsellors’ chief executive, Steve Byrne when speaking to TTG at Travel Counsellors’ annual conference this weekend, as he highlighted the importance of the “human touch” when selling holidays.
It followed a presentation by digital and innovation director Waseem Haq during the conference, where he said the company had been testing a Facebook bot that could respond to customers’ questions.
Byrne acknowledged that the homeworking agency could use machines and machine-learning to complement the customer experience, but he said these would not replace the need for human interaction.
“We will use it to build a better picture of our customers,” he explained. “Data can capture where a customer has been and what they’ve done but not what is going on in their personal lives.
We have the opportunity to show that we are more human. We should win by staying in touch.”
Byrne referenced research carried out by Travel Counsellors over the past six months, which questioned the company’s existing and lapsed customers, as well as those who had never heard of the organisation, about their reasons for booking.
The research highlighted the importance of loyalty and found that 74% of respondents said they were looking for trust. “But trust doesn’t happen on one interaction, we have to keep in touch,” insisted Byrne.
Addressing delegates at the conference, he added: “We are the trusted advisor that plays such an important role in the travel buying process and trust is the glue of life, it is the single thing that cements our relationships.”
He said this applied similarly to the relationship between individual Travel Counsellors and head office too. “Central to our business model now going forward is that you are trusted to make the right decisions for your customers.”
Meanwhile, Haq outlined the company’s latest research projects in further detail. “We’ve done a significant amount of work over the past six to 12 months to build a better picture of who our customers are,” he said, revealing a new customer segmentation report that groups customers into seven types.
“You are now able to find the customer segmentation report and it will show you for your own customer base, which customer types you’ve got,” he explained.
Other developments in technology include revisions to Phenix, the company’s in-house booking system and to the TC Dashboard interface.