For many clients, one of the main selling points of using a travel agent is the reassurance of having someone on hand to help if things go wrong.
Terrorism-related incidents in tourist areas such as the attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona last summer, as well as weather disasters such as Hurricane Irma, show that safety and trust are paramount for clients.
For agents with colleagues all over the globe and clients visiting far-flung destinations, having a communication plan in place is key.
When General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in May, it will inevitably change the legalities of how you store clients’ and colleagues’ details, so now is a crucial time to address and update how you communicate with clients and colleagues.
In any crisis, time is of the essence when making contact. Your response time will make a big difference to how your business is perceived: being ready with a statement in which you can reassure stakeholders that your staff and clients are safe will show a high level of care and competence.
While social media can be a great tool for this, it’s paramount that staff members use it in the right way, so you should ensure there is a comprehensive plan in place. Every member of staff should be a brand ambassador for your business.
Legally, you also have a responsibility to inform clients of emergency events in destinations that you’re advertising. Think about how quickly your head office could get the message out to all staff if there’s important news that needs to be shared.
During an emergency, channels of communication can become clogged as everyone tries to contact people at once. Therefore, when considering which platforms to use, technical difficulties must be anticipated and avoided.
While telephone communication is familiar, instant and personal, it has its limitations. After the Barcelona attack, many people experienced problems with the helpline set up by the Spanish authorities due to the volume of calls. Areas without phone signal can also leave clients in the dark.
SMS is great for sending short messages when there’s no internet access, but bear in mind that mass notification takes a while when hundreds of texts are jostling for airspace, which can cause delays in getting the message across.
There are also issues with sending texts abroad: for example, mass SMS is classed as marketing in France and may be blocked on Sundays, after 10pm at night and during public holidays.
Email is useful for mass notification when internet access is available. It also allows attachments to be sent and maintains a written record of what was said, who said it and when it was received.
However, in a crisis it’s not unusual for people to be away from their inbox. In the case of a cyber attack, sensitive information can be siphoned away from emails, or access can be denied completely.
With the use of mobile apps on the rise among businesses, many choose to use a messenger app like WhatsApp. However, privacy concerns mean that using some of these messenger apps could put your business in direct violation of GDPR and land you with a hefty fine.
While traditional communication methods might prove unreliable in a crisis, purpose-built apps can often offer a better solution.
They’re more likely to be able to combine multiple methods of communication, are not subject to phone reception and can encrypt data to protect clients’ and colleagues’ information.
Whatever communication means you use, what’s certain is that business continuity and the importance of being prepared for an emergency will continue to grow in prominence for both stakeholders and clients – so planning how to get your message across is more important than ever.