“You have to be ready for virtually any situation and so it is fundamental for us to have a solid supplier like Transcom who can guarantee us a high-quality service all the time.”
Giorgio Bonafini, Operations Director of lastminute.com group
As a customer care agent, you need a lot of finesse and quick thinking, not to mention diplomatic and language skills. Big time,” says Giorgio Bonafini, Operations Director of lastminute.com group and speaking from the company’s headquarters in Chiasso, Switzerland. The lastminute.com group offers a range of products including flights, hotels, holidays, city breaks, cruises, car hire as well as other travel and leisure related products.
With services in 17 languages and handling approximately 10 million customers per year, the amount of client assistance services delivered is huge. Transcom has been acting as lastminute.com group’s strategic partner, providing bookings and customer service activities across Europe and North Africa through voice, email and chat functions. Giorgio Bonafini estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of the company’s customer management is handled by Transcom via these traditional channels. Phoning in is especially popular with, for example, the Russians, he says.
“When it comes to our Russian customers for example, my observation is that they want to be sure and secure about what they have reserved, and the procedures that are in place in the case of a ‘what if’. There are a great deal of cultural differences in the way our clients contact us, and why,” he explains. And the nature of the questions and requirements that come through can almost be as varied as there are destinations and activities to choose from.
“We had this one customer who wanted to know whether he could bring a live zebra with him on board his flight,” Giorgio Bonafini recalls, noting that the agent processing the enquiry then had to contact the airline in question to check whether it was actually possible. “It’s important for us that agents go that extra mile to ensure that we can offer our customers the best travel and leisure experiences out there, but no, in this case it just wasn’t possible. Animals of a certain size couldn’t be brought along.”
There was also the case when a customer wished to bring 15 bicycles with him in his luggage, or the time when an airplane passenger wasn’t familiar with having to adjust the time on her watch when flying westwards. “The client couldn’t understand how she could possibly arrive at her destination before the time of her departure. That took a bit of gentle explaining about time zones,” he says. Compared with just a decade ago, the evolution of new technology and the increasing use of social media have also added a whole new dimension when it comes to the courtesy, product know-how and diplomacy skills required by customer care agents – even for those who handle the conventional channels like telephone and email services.
“Although we’re seeing an increased migration towards social media, most people are still using the traditional channels as a point of first contact. But if they’re not happy, they may take to social media which obviously can be very impactful,” Bonafini explains, adding that his company remains directly in charge of the group’s customer care on the social media channels. “You have to be ready for virtually any situation and so it is fundamental for us to have a solid supplier like Transcom who can guarantee us a high-quality service all the time.”
- lastminute.com group is a European leader in the online travel and leisure industry.
- It offers flights, hotels, holidays, city breaks, cruises, car hire as well as other travel and leisure related products.
- More than 10 million customers book their travel and leisure experiences every year.
- Its biggest markets are UK, Italy, France, Spain and Germany, and its services are offered in 17 languages, including Arabic.
Article originally published in the Hello Transcom magazine. Text: Louise Nordström.