Sunweb puts the customer in the spotlight

It’s a dilemma for many customer contact centers: do you choose to help the customer quickly, or rather thoroughly? The customer has high expectations, and it often seems impossible to score sufficiently on both aspects. If you help the customer quickly, you often don’t have time to investigate the case properly. Helping a customer thoroughly, on the other hand, takes time. Sunweb sets out to find a way to help the customer both well and quickly, with customer satisfaction being the leading factor. The travel organisation started working with a chatbot on WhatsApp. André Tuinenburg is Head of Customer Care at Sunweb Group, and will guide you through the process!

How can we increase customer satisfaction?

Sunweb has recently changed its course. Where the organisation previously focused on handling questions as quickly as possible, the focus has shifted to a more customer-oriented approach. Sunweb asked itself: how can we best help the customer?

“We want to create beautiful memories, and that includes a carefree vacation that’s arranged down to the last detail. In previous years we’d been very cost-driven.” Sunweb had set its sights on efficiency, but found that this was holding back growth in customer satisfaction. Our main objective now is to satisfy the customers, and efficiency comes second.”

Online customer support: from a necessary evil, to a valuable tool for strengthening customer relations

The opportunities of online customer support were not being fully recognised. “It may sound a bit negative, but for a very long time we looked at customer support as a necessary evil. After all, it’s mainly about channels that customers pick for you. You’re supposed to respond to public messages, even if you’d rather not.”

This attitude meant that the tour operator preferred to handle queries and complaints as efficiently as possible, and had a limited focus on interaction beyond the customer’s actual question, which was the engagement. “We preferred not to involve ourselves too much in discussions and were limited in our creativity to give a positive spin to a public discussion. Not surprisingly, this approach did not help customer support achieve higher customer satisfaction. That’s why we now pay much more attention to the customer. Quality over quantity.”

Sunweb then launched three initiatives to improve customer satisfaction.

  1. They now address the customer more personally. “We make sure we are more empathetic towards the customer, and that we actually work on our messages. We focus on good answers, and not just quick communication.”

  2. Sunweb no longer shies away from public conversations. “Whereas before we liked to shift the conversation from public over to messaging channels, we don’t do that anymore. We were always a little afraid that there would be a nasty situation if you said something wrong on public channels. Now we’ve come to understand that by strongly responding publicly, you can also influence the discussion and the opinion of the masses in a positive way.”

  3. The tour operator really engages in interaction. “When we get comments on our social media posts, we really want to engage in the conversation. If we ask what your favorite restaurant is in Crete, the conversation doesn’t stop at your answer. “How nice!” we then say for example. ‘Could you send us a picture?'”

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Use channels that match current objectives

Of course, some channels fit the current objectives better than others. WhatsApp suits the organisation’s desire to truly satisfy customers. WhatsApp is used by almost everyone today. The channel works intuitively, and you can easily start a dialogue. You can ‘ping-pong’ with the customer, as it were, without having to answer directly, as you can by phone or live chat. The same ping-pong effect could theoretically be achieved with email, but that tends to be more static.

Sunweb also implemented the WhatsApp Business API with efficiency in mind.

“We added a chatbot to our WhatsApp channel to handle messages efficiently. We hope to be able to serve customers both well and quickly with the WhatsApp Business API.”

The function of the chatbot within WhatsApp

The chatbot currently does three things, as a host the bot welcomes the customer in a friendly manner — it catches the initial questions and acts as a “work-preparer” by requesting the booking number.

“Although the bot is still in development, we see that it can already answer a large part of the first-line questions.”

Right now, many questions are being asked about current measures around the pandemic, regarding vouchers and refunds related to cancelled vacations. These are questions that service agents are presented with many times a day and to which, in fact, the same answer suffices most of the time. These are ideal questions for a chatbot to answer. Before the pandemic, questions were mainly asked about making bookings. But there were also questions that came to the customer’s mind just before their departure. Handling a large variety of questions requires good training of the bot in recognising a lot of different intentions of the customers.

Should a bot be able to recognise all questions immediately? No, there’s always an option to redirect the chat to a live employee. “If a customer asks questions that cannot be answered by the bot, they’re immediately forwarded to a live employee. By working this way, our employees can focus on the more complex questions, and customers with simple questions are helped very quickly. A win-win situation!” Sunweb sees the number of questions that can be immediately picked up by the chatbot to be growing and they’re happy about that. By continuously training the bot, it becomes smarter, and the webcare department becomes more efficient.

If you do it, do it well!

Sunweb focuses on the things that contribute to their current goals. “Our focus at the moment is on building up the WhatsApp chatbot. There are several brands under Sunweb that we could also use this for — think of GOGO and Eliza was here.” The tour operator is also currently looking at opportunities to deploy the chatbot in the Flemish or Danish markets.

“Don’t underestimate the work involved. You can’t just copy/paste the bot. Each brand and each market has its own characteristics, target groups, and tone of voice. You don’t want to fall into half-solutions that ultimately don’t benefit the customer.”

“That’s also my advice for organisations that want to start with a chatbot on WhatsApp. If you’re going to do it, do it right! Make sure you really have the time to build the chatbot. If you do, you will see that there’s going to be a huge positive spiral regarding the way you do online customer service. The work becomes more and more fun for the employees and the quality of your service becomes better and better.”

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Are you ready to take the next step?

Do you also want to be available through your customers’ preferred channel? Are you willing to give your customers the very best service, but don’t want to sacrifice efficiency? Perhaps integrating a chatbot within WhatsApp is something for you! Take a look at Sunweb. They’ve chosen this channel because of the possibilities to connect with the wishes of the customer, and to handle questions efficiently. The results are impressive, partly due to the focus this organisation has on the optimal development and training of their chatbot. Because yes, there’s definitely some time involved in training a chatbot. But Sunweb now definitely is reaping the rewards of this investment! We would be happy to inform you about the possibilities for your organisation. Leave us your email address and we will contact you as soon as possible.