• Blog
  • 2020-07-21

Focus on Technology – Service Center

It is a crisis, yes it really is. And even after more than 40 years in the travel industry, involved on almost all continents, I cannot remember a crisis of such a depth. And we all are shocked; and it is justified that we are shocked. In comparison, Lehman Bros. in 2008 as well as 9/11 in 2001 did not have such an impact on the world economy and on our travel industry like the 2020 Corona crisis. Not to mention all the personal impact on so many of us.

But I think it is high-time to talk about the current situation, to try to spread positive messages and give advice to my colleagues and customers. We have to restart thinking positive, refocus on what needs to be done, see how we can work on the pre-corona problems and to find ways to drive the industry in the times, everybody calls now the “new normal”. And, furthermore, try to identify the potential problems of the post-corona era.

This is why I started this blog here.

Part 3: Focus on Technology – Service Center

It is very difficult for us individuals to think in a constructive and professional way about business – because right now there is hardly any business and all our thoughts are just stuck into “tomorrow”. To stay positive is quite a challenge in these days. The fact that South African top politicians publicly state that travel agents are the worst people on earth as we do not refund the customers’ air tickets (even everybody especially top politician should be aware it is the airlines not refunding, not the travel agents), makes us speechless. But this demonstrates oone more time that people with industry knowledge are quite hard to find.

What helps me a lot to stay positive is through reading about the resumption of our industry on a daily basis; all market participants want to get back into business. My suggestion is to read www.travelnews.africa – makes a lot of sense to me and gives me a much more positive feeling, on a daily basis, about the return of our business.

However, apart of a dose of motivation, let’s come to todays’ main point.

Are you well positioned in the service center for crisis situations and do your employees know what to do?

Now that many service units have been shifted into home office, this can be a good time to take a look at your own risk management and bring it up to date.

Are you well prepared? Have you defined descriptions and procedures to keep your service center alive in a crisis situation?First of all, there are those in-house infrastructure-related situations:

  • Power failure (incl. gem set)
  • Telephone failure (line damage)
  • Internal Network down
  • E-Mail server down
  • Internet down
  • Air-condition failure

Can you answer the following questions with "yes"? If no, there is indeed a need for action Is there an easy to access kind of manual for those team members currently "on duty" with contacts and (emergency) phone numbers (e.g. for shifts outside normal office hours), whom to contact in the above cases?

Are there plans for such failures that e.g. can work in an emergency in another building, where the infrastructure is ready or can be set up quickly?

Can you “switch” to other customer service departments or service providers at short notice?Are there generally formulated, ready-made telephone announcements "Due to a technical malfunction ..." that can be imported ad hoc without first having to find and consult a specialist in IT?

Are the employees equipped with hardware so that they can work just as well from any meeting room as from home?Is there a risk matrix and a risk assessment of what effects the above could have on customers, sales and other business?What do you do if there is negative publicity due to newspaper articles or other reports about your company and your customer service receives calls from worried customers, suppliers, business partners or journalists and the lines "overflow"? Any unspoken statement can have further negative effects.

Ideally, your company has a crisis response team to control communication and statements in such situations in order to edit statements as soon as possible for communication purpose.

  • Are there dedicated contact persons (crisis team) for such a crises?
  • Are there emergency numbers in place? Is everybody aware of them?
  • In what timeframe shall verbal statements been given to your customers? Are standard procedures in place?
  • How quickly can you communicate in writing to your customers and which channels are available?
  • What measures can you take to e.g. to expand the hotline times in times of crisis, to offer additional channels, etc.?
  • Can in-house employees support the service team and if so, is there a list with names and ways of reachability?
  • Is there a service provider available who can process requests in a standardized manner, operating as an emergency back-up?

There is surely more that could specifically affect your company. Take the time to build an emergency manual. Request a free sample via email peter.hallebach@traveltec.africa.

Read next week: Focus on Technology – Mid- and Backoffice Systems