Empathizing with the customer in a digital customer journey of tourism
By Phd candidate Päivi Hanni-Vaara
Have you ever felt ignored when you are shopping online, for example, booking a lovely leisure journey for a long-anticipated holiday? Sometimes, you may feel ignored when you are trying connect with a person in customer service to ask a sensitive question. Let’s imagine that your need for communication is ignored and you cannot reach anyone but a bot. The bot is trying to answer your question, but says in the end “Sorry, I cannot help you. I will connect you to a human”. As a result, this customer journey sounds somewhat empathized, doesn’t it? In the worst case, the bot may give you the contact information of the human or, even worse, doesn’t share any information. Would you continue shopping with the company that serves you this poorly?
Empathy and sensitivity of customer service require deep customer insight. The first example where the bot connected a customer with a human included empathized customer-centric elements. Tourism and hospitality companies need to recognize that every customer and customer service moment is individual. Further, the needs, expectations, and importance of the service may vary a lot, even for the same customer in different situations. The place and the moment are affected by sensitivity and urgency. Together with this, the persons you are travelling with may create pressure on different needs for the journey, especially when thinking about holiday and leisure travel.
The examples describe phases on a digital customer journey that is based on touchpoints and service moments. The touchpoints are places where the customer is served or informed with any needed information. More specifically, the touchpoints are physical or digital elements, like places, persons, and objects where the customer meets experts (and agencies) of customer service, exchanges information, and proceeds with transactions. The temporality of each touch defines the service moment. One example of a service moment is the earlier interaction between a human and a bot. The service moment is defined between the time when the question is asked and the reply is delivered.
Digitalization and technology platforms with devices and solutions are here to help us. We humans are the ones to define the empathetic touchpoints that offer value to customers pre-, onsite, and post-travel. Tourism companies need to sense and recognize the customer's emotions to empathize with the customer. More specifically, the customer should be the one to define the place, time, and mode of each online transaction.
Covid-19 has affected customers’ needs for both physical, and especially digital services. As users of digital services, customers expect to find the service convenient, safe and trustworthy. The digital services should be easy to reach, accessible all day, and the whole customer journey of the digital customer service is expected to be frictionless for the customer. Customers value more human-centricity in customer service. They appreciate the individual attention and personalized touch in digital customer service. This all reminds us that the customers are humans, not faceless data.
This blog entry was written as an assignment for the course TUKO1111 Writing in English, offered on a regular basis by the Graduate School of the University of Lapland.