Travel agents must keep pace with digital innovation

Thursday, May 4th, 2023 03:00 | By
A plane flying. Photo/Courtesy

Innovative technologies are re-shaping entire industries and value chains including aviation. Airlines have not escaped the ongoing wave of digital disruption as they embrace new technologies to create memorable experiences for customers. In the age of personalised travel experiences, airlines have to consistently deliver superior customer service, over and above getting passengers safely to their destination.

Delighting customers requires a deeper understanding of their travel needs to innovate richer experiences. Fortunately, Artificial Intelligence and other intuitive technologies have significantly enhanced the ability of airlines to respond to the evolving demands and preferences of travelers and in a timely and consistent manner. However, aviation providers need to work closely with trade partners in creating a digital-led experiential approach to customer service. These include travel agents who are at the frontline of helping people plan journeys. They work closely with airline clients to create the best possible experiences and other than booking hotel rooms, flights, tours, they generally have to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Therefore, travel agents cannot be ignored given their strategic significance as intermediaries in the aviation value chain.

They, therefore need to be armed with all the right information to advise their clients and add value to the relationship. Hence the need to empower agents with the tools to access real-time information to enable them perform this valuable role better and more efficiently. One challenge airlines face is putting together all relevant customer data in one place for instant availability.

Backed by innovative technologies, and in particular digital tools that not only enable real-time access to crucial data needed for efficient decision-making, travel agents have embraced online platforms that aggregate information in one place thus giving them an accurate view of what is really happening.

In addition, vastly improved efficiency in data processing means agents are able to sift through a large trove of information via a one-stop portal thus streamlining operations, reducing costs and improving revenue, among other strategic benefits of digital transformation.

A good example is a one-stop shop for all services giving customers more control and easy access to their flight needs in a safe and secure environment. One such portal recently unveiled by Air France-KLM Group optimises the work of travel agents while offering convenience and best-user experience to customers.

The newly unveiled business solutions portal is aimed at facilitating travel agents and the public to access all services in one place to make their work easier. From policies and procedures to the airline’s products and services, the latest news and product updates. Users can also access all relevant travel-related information under one roof. They can also perform more tasks by themselves including requesting for a waiver.

However, even with the rapid digitalisation of travel planning and management, travel agents will remain relevant into the foreseeable future since the human touch is an indispensable element of any service-oriented business like aviation. Empathy is essential in ensuring positive experiences that drive customer loyalty and satisfaction, crucial to building trust and a strong emotional connection with a brand. Above all, travel agents are instrumental in creating an unforgettable customer journey.

Hence, the need to blend online and human interactions in an omni-channel customer experience ecosystem. As an innovative aviation partner to our passengers, Air France-KLM has built strong credentials in the use of technology to enhance the overall customer experience.

— The writer is the AirFrance-KLM General Manager East and Southern Africa, Nigeria and Ghana

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