Leveraging calls to push personalized customer experience in the hospitality industry

July 18, 2017

Written by Karan Tupe

Leveraging Calls to Push Personalized Customer Experience In The Hospitality Industry.

Travel and tourism, one of the most sought-after activities to relax and explore what the earth has to offer has been growing at an escalating pace. According to WTTC, Travel & Tourism’s direct contribution to global GDP grew by 3.1% in 2016. This was faster than the global economy as a whole which grew at 2.5%, for six consecutive years. The rise in popularity of the sharing economy has made traveling not only more convenient but also less expensive. AirBnB, the world’s largest accommodation provider is known as the poster-child for the sharing economy. An unconventional business model coupled with changing consumer behavior have disrupted the sector and have compelled traditional hoteliers to rethink their customer experience strategy. At a time when customers’ likes and dislikes are constantly evolving, how does one deliver an outstanding customer experience across communication channels?

Millennial Influence
The conventional practice of approaching a travel agent to book a holiday or a business trip is being increasingly disregarded. Travelers today look out for personalization and flexibility. Websites such as Booking.com and AirBnB allow customers to book flights and accommodation on the go. According to a study by Deloitte, millennials, individuals born during the early 1980’s to early 2000 are influencing the travel behaviors of both older and younger generations. Digitally empowered millennials seek personalized communication (via multiple electronic platforms), seamless planning, flawless execution, and an authentic, customized travel experience. A report by AirBnB reports that over 80% millennials seek unique and personalized travel experiences. Millennials are the largest generation ever and by 2025, millennials and younger generations will account for 75% of all consumers and travelers. Personalizing the customer experience is not only necessary, it is also extremely rewarding. But how does one achieve that, exactly?

Most Millennials would prioritize travelling over buying a home or paying off debt.

Personalize to prosper

The new-generation tourism services such as Airbnb have personalisation built into them, but key traditional players are picking up on the trend. In 2014, Accor Hotels unveiled a digital strategy in line with the changing times. This strategy, a five-year, €225-million investment plan places emphasis on personalizing the customer experience with follow-ups, feedback collection, and business intelligence gathering. Accor Hotels’ customers can download a single, centralized app on their mobile phone, and from there, book their journeys, get a personalized follow-up, give feedback, and ask for help. The data collected from these interactions are continuously crunched to improve the quality of service.

Beyond Digital

Although, focusing on digital touchpoints alone is not enough. Most people still want to talk to a real person before making complex decisions such as buying a car, subscribing to an insurance policy or booking a family trip. A study by Google indicates that 70% of consumers who use their mobile to purchase goods and services have used the “click-to-call” button to talk to someone. 68% of travel users find it extremely important to call up a hotel during the purchase phase and 39% of them frequently call during the research phase. If you were planning on going all-digital and calling quits with your call center, consider this: 47% of mobile searchers will look elsewhere if your company does not provide them with a phone number. 

Calls are a key touchpoint

According to the advertising and marketing advisory firm BIA/Kelsey, calls to businesses are expected to exceed $169 billion per year by 2020. These calls are 10-15 times more likely to generate a successful sale or follow-up activity than digital form submissions, which means they are more efficient in generating revenue. So, how does one leverage calls and turn it into a valuable touch-point to gather data.

Source :  Google

Using Speech Analytics

Humans generally speak at 125-175  and can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute. In contrast, the average typist writes 38-40 words per minute — and that’s on a full keyboard, not a smartphone. Spoken language is also qualitatively richer and more expressive than text. The technologies needed to leverage this information, however, have only matured in recent years with the staggering progress of speech recognition and the emergence of nonverbal analytics (i.e. the analysis of tone and other cues to understand social interaction). As early as 2010, David Pogue declared that “speech recognition technologies [were] no longer clumsy exercises in futility”. And plenty of progress has been made since then. In 2015, Baidu surprised the world when it released Deep Speech, the first speech recognition model to rival people on certain recognition tasks, in English and Chinese!

Speech analytics empowers companies to pick up on customer problems, gather feedback and personalize the customer journey. Combined with predictive AI, speech analytics can also be used to predict the outcome of calls, in real-time, and guide your sales or support agents to success.


To keep things concrete, let’s look at an example of how a travel agency can leverage call data:

You are running a promotional offer on one of your holiday packages, which are priced at 3500$. Unfortunately, there is a bug in the digital payment portal. In one month, 30 customers call up your agents and report a payment error. 70 more people encountered the problem online but gave up without calling. That’s a cumulative loss of $245k. Hurts, doesn’t it?

Without speech analytics, picking up on such problems would be a headache. Traditional approaches to call quality monitoring involve listening to a tiny fraction of all calls and doing customer satisfaction surveys. These techniques are unable to capture global trends or to understand disgruntled customers who refuse to answer surveys or are simply never asked.

With speech recognition and Natural Language Understanding (NLU), problems such as online payment bugs can be identified quickly and reliably, allowing the company to quickly fix problems before they wreak havoc on the bottom line.

Before speech analytics, calls were a black hole in the customer journey. With speech analytics, they become a treasure trove of insight. Are you making the most out of calls?