Take it you have a smartphone… You know, one of those all singing, all dancing contraptions that lets you surf the Internet, play games, and – provided you’ve got the right app – makes you a cup of coffee. If so, here’s a quick question for you: When was the last time you made a phone call?
If you didn’t know that your smartphone could also make calls, you’re probably part of the 'iGeneration', aka generations Y and Z.
According to research by Traveltripper.com, Y’s and Z’s (born in the 1990s and later) are going off voice and are switching to texting and messaging apps, because they consider them more 'immediate'. I, of course, grew up thinking that nothing’s more immediate than a phone call, and I never really gave this matter much thought, but then it hit me: When was the last time I actually made a call and reached somebody right away? I had to think about this for a little while until I remembered. Try as I might, though, I can’t remember the last time I left somebody a voice mail. Do people still use voice mail?
Voice communication, then, does indeed appear to slowly decrease in importance and you don’t have to be a communication expert to realise that this trend is likely to continue and is set to change the way the travel industry handles customer service and other transactions.
The iGeneration expects to be able to research, book, pay for, and review travel all through their phone and all without having to actually speak to anybody. What exactly does that mean for travel and hospitality companies, though?
Firstly, of course, no more struggling to understand people on the phone. Personally, I’m delighted about that, because before switching to messaging apps and online ordering, I was a frequent victim of what I call 'confused phone orders syndrome'. You see, apparently when I say 'two' it sounds like 'three'. While I find this hard to believe and so far have been unable to confirm it with family and friends, fact is that virtually every time I order two of something, I get three. That’s okay with sugar in my coffee, but poses an issue when ordering pizza or trying to get something delivered to apartment no. 203.
Secondly, it means we need to look at communication training again. Out goes the telephone skills training and in comes the 'How to communicate effectively through text messages and Facebook Messenger' training. You’ll agree that not everybody who’s great on the phone, is also an effective written communicator. My previous cleaning company is a case in point, because numerous times I got messages like 'Seer! Plz. Cleaner not able to cum tmrw. Sun possbl?' I recently switched to a new company and I was delighted to see that not only did they clean very well, but they could also write full sentences that made sense and didn’t give me the urge to throw a dictionary at them.
Perhaps most importantly, the end of voice opens the door to outsourcing of communication services and increasing telecommuting. Sure, we had offshore call centres for a while and they often weren’t very popular, but that’s because people realised their calls were being answered abroad. No such issue with text messages or other text-based communication. Add to that the ability to data mine written communication much more effectively than spoken text and I foresee the creation of companies that specialise in providing 24/7 text-based customer service and customer insights. You won’t only be told that Mr SoAndSo has messaged and what he said, but because Mr SoAndSo messaged via Facebook, Twitter, or some other online platform, you’ll also be told that he’s digitally very well connected. Make of this what you want, but I think it has the potential for considerably enhancing your company’s service offerings.
Just a second! My phone’s ringing! Oh, okay, it was just another financial advisor trying to sell me the latest investment. Sometimes, the end of voice cannot come soon enough for me…
By Martin Kubler
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.