Tour operators must stop giving customer service

What? Did I read correctly that we need to stop giving great customer service? Of course not. The point here is to stop providing time consuming repetitive manual customer service. By automating your customer service process, you will have an edge over your competition.

Most tour operators mention customer service in their mission statement and rightfully so. It's the only way to keep a loyal customer and get raving reviews. Also, it's important to focus on providing amazing service because bad stories usually end up on a tour company's Facebook page and that's not good for business.

Scenario 1: Bob and Diane Tours

Let's use Bob and his wife Diane as an example. They own a tour company and they book roughly 5,000 passengers per year. Bob and Diane use an old tour reservation system they purchased in 2007 and they both feel it's doing it's job. If it ain't broken, don't fix it Bob keeps reminding the staff in the office.

Every week, they have at least 5 tours operating and they want to provide a superior service to their customers. It's so important that they mention it in the company mission statement and everywhere on their brochure. If you ask Bob and Diane what makes them different from the competition, they will quickly say that their customer service sets them apart.

In order to accomplish a superior experience, they go over and beyond the call of duty. To start, they send out personalized emails to their customers using a template they copy and paste into Microsoft Outlook to simply thank the customers for booking with their tour company. It's time consuming but it's one way they can add a personal touch. They attach the invoice and an information kit in PDF format to this email as well. They sometimes forget one here and there but there is so much they can do with only a few people in the office. This causes some customers to call back concerned since they didn't receive anything after having made a payment. The staff is good at reassuring them and try to prioritize service to those customers that are borderline frustrated.

Bob takes care of answering phones while his wife is busy looking up emails in the system to send a personalized email to all customers leaving that week and attach their travel voucher in PDF format. She misspelled the name on a few emails but mistakes happen I guess but out of the 25 emails she just sent, it only happened a few times. She tells herself she needs to be more vigilant but realizes that she's only human.

She needs to help out her husband on the phone lines since people leaving that week are calling in with questions. Some of the phone calls she receives is concerning the travel voucher they were promised. She explains to the customer that she's sending out vouchers right now and that they should get it shortly.

As soon as she hangs up the phone with the customer, she needs to leave for an emergency and asks someone at the office to continue her work. The employee is too busy answering questions for people leaving that week that she doesn't have time to continue sending out emails. She will need to continue the next day sending out personalized emails. Bob and his wife feel overwhelmed but they convince themselves that no other tour operator provides such good service. The next day, most calls are about the promised emails and customers are wondering if everything is ok with their trip.

The lady who receives an email with her misspelled name calls in and is concerned that she will have problems at the border because of her name is not written correctly. The staff reassures the lady that is was a mistake on the email only and that her name is correct on the travel arrangement and that's where it counts. The lady explains that she's had problems before and she wants to be sure it won't happen this time. The agent hangs up the phone and says to everyone: "That lady was paranoid. Wow!"

When a tour is over, the staff sends out a survey asking questions about their experience. It does involve in typing all email addresses and sending out the questions. It does take time but it's the only way of knowing if they enjoyed the tour. They try to send out the survey as soon as they return but it's done after all other tasks for the upcoming departures are completed. We can only do so much in a day.

Scenario 2: Frank and Sons Tours

Now let's meet with Frank, a Touralix customer. The system automatically sent an invoice to the customer immediately following the booking. You even heard the sound of a new email that just arrived in their customer's inbox. The customer looks over the information while he's on the phone to insure everything is correct. Frank does mention that he will receive other documents and takes his time to explain the purpose of these docs. He also takes time to explain the process from beginning to end with the customer. It's all about making your customers feel good about their purchase.

When a customer calls to make a final payment, Frank will quickly go to the booking and apply payment on the customer's credit card. Touralix is directly connected to a payment processor so it's taken right away. If there is a problem with the card, the customer is notified immediately and he can then call his bank to find out the problem. If the payment is successful, the system automatically resend a new invoice stating that the trip is paid if full.

Later that night, Touralix sent an information kit in PDF format to new customers who booked in the last 24 hours, an FAQ email, travel vouchers, a text message to those who are leaving the next day with an emergency phone number, and a reminder on the departure point and times. All these tasks were completed while Frank was sleeping. All emails were personalized to each customer and sent automatically from Frank's personal address. There were very little customer service calls before their trip because all customers were well informed. All these tasks were completed error-free and while Frank was either sleeping or watching reruns of Sex and City.

While travelers were on their trip, Touralix sent an email and a text message to all customers to enjoy their time and ask if everything is going well. A day after their return, Touralix sent a customer experience survey with a promo code to save on their next trip. Again, all done while Frank was sleeping.

During that week, when a hotel manager calls to get an updated rooming list, Frank clicks a button that sends it immediately with all updates. If a bus company calls to get a list of passengers and their checkpoints, Frank would click a button and it's sent immediately. Frank wants to send the Tour Director the tour info so he clicks a button and it's send automatically.

As you can see, the second scenario describes someone that has the core process of his tour company automated.

What does your process look like today? Is there room for improvement?