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Tine Thygesen

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Tine Thygesen is a tech entrepreneur who also helps corporates with digital strategy. Tine will be speaking at the Digital Tourism Content Campus, in the Faroe Islands on 1-2 of March. More about Tine: www.tinethygesen.com.

For long, the phone has been the major service tool in the travel industry. Despite the industry’s best efforts to shift calls to online self-service the phone still plays a major role. When you want custom information you call your travel agency, when you want to double check your booking you call your hotel, when something is unclear about air miles you call your airline.

Despite its commonness, calling is a poor solution for both parties. As a customer you call and then you wait. And get redirected. And punch in your information. Wait again. Get redirected again. Then you’re asked to call back because the person you need to reach is on a break. All the while you slowly loose the desire to buy anything at all from this company. But since the phone been the only serious alternative to actually turning up in person and standing in line, you have no choice. Neither has the company. Now that is changing with a new medium occurring the travel service scene; messaging.

As a method to getting a reply to their questions, customers love messaging. And there’s good reason for that, there’s no requirement to physically present, it’s instant, it’s on the run, it is inexpensive yet it is it is personal one-on-one communication.

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A good example of the new popularity is new travel agency WhatsAHOY Travel, a personal travel service for frequent flyers. They have quickly grabbed a hugely profitable travel segment; corporate travellers who are tired of the inflexibility of existing services. The clients receive 100% of their servicing by chatting to AHOY on WhatsApp. CEO Sylvia Brune says “Our travellers are in fast-paced environments with complex and last minute itineraries who are often already travelling when something comes up. They had given up on traditional services. Now they get help with simple messaging. They love the speed of instant to-the-point communication”.

Messaging has been the big winner on the technology scene in the last five years.

WhatsApp has beaten all internet records reaching 500 million global users in 4 years. WeChat in China has grown to 275million users, Line in Japan 350 million users and Tango 190mio users, just the mention the best known. The major reason for the popularity is the instant nature, a hard demand from the internet generation. Additionally, the services run on Wi-Fi and are thus free to use, and they work with even poor internet connectivity.

For travel companies messaging, and its cousin chat, can be an answer to how to manage service in the internet age. In recent years we’ve seen chat introduced in sales situations as a support to self-service online with great results of up to 30% higher conversion. A report by Forrester Research showed that 44% of consumers considers instant online service is an important service. By also offering messaging or chat in service situation enables a customer service representative to communicate with multiple people at the same time and is much less time demanding than phone calls. With its real-time nature, it enables personal service and timely response to time-critical questions. Chris Kaalund, CEO of Triptale who has made more than 100 apps for travel companies confirms “We are starting to get requests for in-app messaging and are considering building it into our apps”

Perhaps most importantly, chat and messaging enables companies to reach a whole new target audience.

There is a market segment of literally millions of people, including practically everyone under 40 years’ old, who prefers dealing with people via intermediary technology rather than face to face. These people prefer interacting via their phone and are much more likely to buy or interact via messages, tweets and chats than face-to-face or by the phone. Today, the travel industry only hears from this segment when they lament terrible experience publicly on social media afterwards. By then it’s impossible to remedy the situation and the damage don’t to your brand is irreversible.

Wouldn't it be nice to reach them before that?

 

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