In Netomi’s latest “Support Superheroes” webinar, Netomi’s Can Ozdoruk sat down for a virtual chat with Alexandra da Silva Rodrigues, Radisson Hotel Group’s Strategical Advisor for Global Contact Centers. The two discussed emerging customer service trends in the travel & hospitality industry, managing the ticket surge during COVID-19, and the ‘human’ touch in digital support.
Here, we review some of the highlights and top takeaways from the illuminating discussion.
Missed the live webinar? For more trends and insights from the world of hotels and hospitality, view the full recording of the webinar: Check-in with Radisson’s Customer Service Leader Alexandra da Silva Rodrigues!
In the business of selling emotions
“In hospitality, we are selling emotions, we are selling feelings,” Alexandra said. “Not only are we selling a room or a restaurant, but the entire hotel environment, so it is up to us to be there, and to assist when the customers have issues.”
At Radisson, a large global company with different brands with their own different values, it is a matter of understanding the needs and requirements of each individual guest, and providing them with a superior experience, based on their expectations.
How can we get more empathetic responses from call center agents?
“It’s about communication with all teams, not only operations managers and team leaders but amongst the agents themselves,” she said. “The training content is not only about following a template and a flow from A to Z, it is about understanding what we are answering and saying to a guest, and all agents are instructed to think as if they were the guest. It all comes down to training, communication, skills and having the right tools.”
Prioritize digital, yet maintain that all-important human touch
While the main channels for their call center agents are currently phone and email, the Radisson team is working on expanding their automation efforts and using AI-powered bots.
“Digitalization is something that we need to follow, because it is something that the market is demanding,” Alexandra said, noting that, while the team has typically followed a traditional approach, the pandemic has accelerated their shift to digital. “Guests want to contact us wherever and whenever they want, they do not want to wait a long time in queues.”
When it comes to choosing what to automate, Alexandra stressed the importance of beginning with the easiest tasks and working from there, concentrating first on those processes that are “non value-add.” For instance, her agents receive many emails from travel agencies that utilize email templates, complete with clearly defined fields. “We can have a bot that reads these fields to see whatever is requested, whether that is a booking modification or cancellation,” she noted.
There are some limitations, however, and instances in which a human touch is essential. “Instances where we need a human agent is when we need to apply emotional intelligence, to put on the shoes of the guest and understand what they are looking for,” she said. “A human is well-trained and has the skills to do this.”
“Digitalization is something that we need to follow, because it is something that the market is demanding. Guests want to contact us wherever and whenever they want, they do not want to wait a long time in queues.”
– Alexandra da Silva Rodrigues, Strategical Advisor for Global Contact Centers, Radisson Hotel Group
How can teams get those in positions of leadership on board with the move to digital transformation?
While focusing on the ROI and the numbers is important, figures and scenarios are not the sole piece of the equation. Encourage your partners in crime (as Alexandra refers to her team members) to conduct a pilot project. “Focus on a certain part of your process during a certain period of time, and consider whether this little piece of the business can be expanded by a certain percentage,” she said. “This is the way that I have shown my leadership, and so far, it has worked. Whenever I have an idea for a new project, it is also a matter of involving other areas such as marketing, sales and IT to create a workstream because contact centers touch so many different areas…alone we are one, yet together we are stronger.”
“The digital will not kill the human agent, but digital is necessary,” Alexandra noted, referencing the song ‘Video Killed The Radio Star.’ “I don’t foresee that bots will kill our human agents, but they will help our agents really be transformed into sales and customer care super-agent teams, and will also help them remain with us so we will not face the issue of turnover.”
“Technology is not the enemy, it is here to help us optimize processes,” Alexandra said. “It is up to us to transform our agents into super-agents, those who are well-recognized and well-paid.”
Emerging trends for customer service leaders to watch out for
Above all, Alexandra emphasized, guests want personalization – they want to be recognized and to experience a “wow effect” (such as being greeted by name when they phone in with a query or request). Guests are also becoming increasingly conscious about sustainability options. It then becomes a matter of finding technology to match these two elements, and also to aid with speed and effectiveness.
For more industry insights and thought-provoking conversations, check out previous as well as upcoming Netomi webinars!