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by Yvonne Matambo, Customer Service Manager for SafariNow, Africa’s most established accommodation booking network
An exceptional product, popping logo and awesome employees are only half the battle won when building your brand. An integral ingredient to how it is perceived is how a customer experiences your brand, and in-turn, how well you take care of your customer.
Customers tend to favour and develop a high degree of loyalty toward brands they know they can trust. This requires establishing and communicating a brand promise and building a customer experience that upholds the promise consistently at every stage of the purchase cycle.
For a brand like SafariNow, which offers an online accommodation booking service that can function with little direct human interaction for most transactions, ensuring our customers enjoy their experience every step of the way can be a tricky task – but one that we are well prepared to tackle. It is not only about sorting out a problem when a customer calls in for help but also monitoring successful transactions that give you a clearer picture of where any frustrations may exist for the customer.
Because we encourage everyone and anyone looking to travel to use an accommodation solution, it is important that we ensure we are living up to that brand promise. That means making sure that we have a solution for everybody’s need, be it finding affordable accommodation or hidden gem accommodation far away from the popular places, luxury accommodation in one of the more popular destinations, or hotels, guest houses or self catering accommodation available on the last minute, be it near or far – we constantly have to monitor that we are living up to this brand promise.
With the help of certain tools like data analytics and other software offerings, a digital client service manager may be able to track a customer’s journey on the platform in order to better understand where their frustrations lie and to gauge whether their experience was positive or negative. The most obvious way to do this is to gather data on how many users visited the site, how far in the process they navigated through the site and ultimately whether they made a booking for that dream vacation or much needed getaway.
A drop-off rate would be of concern and would need to be analysed and investigated to see if this was because the user became frustrated or because the system wasn’t clear enough to navigate; has a recent change been made to the service that has done more harm than the intended good?; did the customer leave dissatisfied because they had no joy finding suitable accommodation at the last minute?
For all service-oriented brands it’s a reality that, mistakes happen and things go wrong – this is why it is vital to invest in customer service that not only mitigates bad experiences, but makes the customer want to come back.
Our customer’s needs and satisfaction are ultimately at the heart of everything that we do and we endeavour to continuously engage with them through various communication methods such as email, phone call and SMS. We need to show that we genuinely care about our customers.
There is however a very fine balance in terms of how far one should reach out to customers as some site users are merely curious, and following up with a call or email could make them feel like their privacy has been invaded. By first understanding or determining the need and intention of your customer, I believe you will be better equipped to deliver on your business objectives with sincerity to your customers.
A human at the heart of it all
Our product is fully functional and requires minimal human interaction, however we have the added benefit of a team who are ready and eager to get involved in assisting our customers to find their perfect getaway. We also engage with customers who have had good experiences as this is equally important to ensure we are getting things right.
Integral to the success of this interaction also means hiring people who want to do their job, have a natural aptitude for people, and a personality that can deal with stressful or challenging situations without exploding under the pressure. And conversely it is important as a business that we show them appreciation in regular doses, acknowledge their successes and create a safe and happy environment cognisant of their needs.
Always adapt and innovate
For SafariNow, adapting to our customers’ needs and the ever-changing advancements made through technological innovation means keeping abreast with trends and trying new things with our product to ensure that we are remaining relevant.
WDS, a Xerox company, recently presented the following trends businesses can look into:
- The need to make your service available to smartphone users – this is because the proliferation of smartphones in the market has demanded an adaption to the way we communicate and offer our service.
- People are choosing self service options – this means that you need to make this option accessible, easy to navigate and ensure seamlessness in the process.
- Proactive client service – through the help of trackers placed on the user-journey it is important to interact with clients proactively versus reactively through various methods of communication to ensure their satisfaction and retention.
- Data Analytics or smart machines – can help how you respond to, avoid or enhance your level of service through a more personalised approach.
- Re-Humanising care – no matter how many automated machines exist and how easy they make a digital transaction – never skimp on your hiring of people who genuinely want to be of service to your customers – at the end of the day they will make the difference between a win or a loss.
- Real-time assistance – instant chat is increasing its prevalence in customer care.
- Don’t be afraid to innovate your brand – explore virtual and augmented reality to supplement your customer care experience.
To close off I believe in the importance of taking care of your customers, in ensuring that after they have interacted with your business they have an elevated perspective of what you as a business can and will do to deliver an amazing service. It is as vital as all the other factors contributing to your bottom-line objectives and it is one that shouldn’t be compromised on because ultimately people will never forget how you made them feel.