Thursday, November 5, 2009

NACCM 2009 LIVE: How Travelocity uses customer information to create a Customer Service Culture

When you’re one of the largest travel agencies in the U.S., and you manage the majority of your business through the web, you’ve got an interesting set of customer service challenges.

Travelocity is a very well-know portal for purchasing travel, not just in the U.S., but around the world through, Travelocity Business, zugi, and more. All of this traffic is supported by four centers in the U.S., 3 in India, and 2 in the Philippines.

Travelocity achieves very high levels of service, even though they really never meet their customers face to face, and rarely even talk to them on the phone. How do that do that? Through Customer Championship.

Ginny Mahl is VP, Customer Care at Travelocity. Ginny shared with the NACCM Customer’s 1st conference what customer championship is and why is it important.

Travelocity’s customer promise is “We guarantee your booking will be right or we’ll work with our partners to make it right, right away.” That’s a big promise when you consider the volume of business they do.

  • Delivering on their promise requires a deep enterprise-wide commitment.
  • When a customer makes them aware of a travel problem, they fix it promptly at the first point of contact.
  • They advocate for the customer both within Travelocity and with travel suppliers.
  • They not only fix the first customer’s problem but also those of similarly situated customers. They improve the customer’s entire travel experience.

Example: When a booking ends up not being the room type expected, it’s a big problem, particularly when it’s a special event. Travelocity has developed a process to pre-confirm rooms to cut down on this problem. Travelocity tackles the problem, even though they didn’t cause it!

If you look at the many travel websites, you quickly realize that Travelocity cannot consistently differentiate with content. They all look and act pretty much the same.

Customer Championship is what makes Travelocity different.

  • It creates a sustainable differentiator between Travelocity and other sites.
  • It causes customers to be more loyal to an organization that provides support when needed
  • Doing the right thing for customers will forces Travelocity to evaluate its policies and processes and fix those that don’t make sense for the customer.
  • Being the customer’s advocate energizes employees

The essence of this effort is echoed in art of their mission statement: To Inspire Travelers and Be Their Champion.

A high-volume, mostly web-based business generates a mind-boggling amount of information about customers and their experiences. Here’s how Travelocity uses that information to support their championship vision. According to Ginny, they use it to:

  • Gain a deep understanding of our customers by listening
  • Assure the entire organization is accountable for delighting our customers
  • Work with our suppliers to improve the travel experience

Travelocity gets a vast amount of customer feedback through surveys, emails, calls, etc. -- hundreds of thousands of times per month. With so many millions of data points, it’s hard to digest it all.

Text Mining allows them to regularly and systematically read mass quantities of customer feedback.

In order to manage this process, they have created a dedicated customer advocacy team. This group researches the issues, contacts customers for resolution, and compile feedback for further study. They also look for customer “cries for help.”

“Cries for help” are verbatim comments that text mining allows them to search for that indicate a real problem. Comments on websites, surveys, etc. like “Do you care?” “Help!” “Refund my money!”Travelocity found that they can triple customer satisfaction when the customer advocacy team responds to them.

Another benefit of mining so much information and being able to make sense of it is that it also allows them to work better with suppliers. They can give real data to suppliers instead of just anecdotal stories.

In short, it helps them, and their suppliers provide travelers with Proactive Customer Care to make their experiences better and better.

As Ginny’s final comments reminded us: “Because it’s not just about getting there…it’s about assuring great experiences."

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