Handling Disrupted Travel Communications with WhatsApp Business


Product Marketing Director

4 min read

As travel companies face challenging times, it’s more important than ever to prioritize crisis communications with the chat app travelers already use: WhatsApp.

As the travel industry currently faces a deep crisis with massive cancellations due to the covid-19 outbreak, customer support has reached capacity and is unable to service anxious customers.

At this time, many travelers remain stuck overseas, cancellations continue to pile up and the marathon for refunds and rescheduled flights remains the central challenge for airlines, railways and transport companies. And while this deep crisis is unprecedented and nobody could have predicted it, companies cannot help but wonder if the digital projects they’ve put on the backburner for so long could help them now.

Because there has been so little investment in digitizing traveler experiences, customer inquiries and questions are overwhelming contact centers. Many travelers who call a hotline are automatically dropped from the queue and never get through. And the lucky people who do get through to talk to an agent wait hours to get a resolution.

What can travel companies do at this time of crisis? Postponing digital projects is no longer an option – and the use of chat apps like WhatsApp Business can be a literal lifesaver for customers and agents alike.

Send time-critical notifications

The first – and easiest – thing travel companies can do is proactively send critical travel notifications like cancellations and information about refunds to customers. Whenever possible, add some quick guidance about how customers can get more information directly on WhatsApp or via a URL.

These would be valuable notifications for customers:

  • Flight / railway cancellations or updates
  • Automatic refund notifications for VIPs / first class customers
  • Customer support contact info, opening times, etc.

SMS also comes to the rescue

For simple notifications that need to reach travelers with or without data roaming, or with or without a smartphone, enterprise SMS is a great alternative to get the message out there in a short time frame.

While a quick update is valuable, in most cases customers need more detailed information. This can be easily done with media message templates.

Guide your customers with additional information

Sending an image or PDF with additional information like how to get a refund or return vouchers is a great way to avoid massive inquiries to your contact center. Here are some examples:

  • Refund applications
  • Refund confirmations
  • Booking and re-booking confirmations 
  • Travel reschedule options
  • Travel contracts and return policies
  • Return vouchers
  • e-receipts  

Connect WhatsApp with your IVR

Instead of having travelers call your hotline number and fail to get through, divert your incoming calls to WhatsApp by enabling IVR deflection.

Known as “call-to-messaging deflection,” more and more brands are deploying IVR deflection to WhatsApp Business to enhance their customer support and reduce incoming calls to their contact center. This also improves agent efficiency by shifting customer issues to WhatsApp, where agents can simultaneously handle multiple conversations.

Chatbots and self-service

In crisis situations like this, most inquiries tend to be repetitive. The bulk of your questions probably look like this:

  • Is my flight cancelled?
  • Will I receive my money back?
  • Can I rebook without additional cost?

A chatbot is a fast and simple way to collect information to triage your customers (name, flight number, etc.) and provide them with basic information without needing a call. Self-service is a great way to enable customers to reply to relevant notifications and get instructions on how to proceed.

For more complex inquiries, chatbots should be set up to escalate to human agents. Due to the massive amounts of calls, it’s also possible to let customers know when to expect a response (24, 48, 72 hours). This sets the expectation and again decreases the number of customers calling to solve inquiries.

You can promote your WhatsApp bot on your website and also let customers know they can reply to notifications and service updates.

tyntec can help you build a simple self-service chatbot with the expertise of various partners. You can find our pre-built integrations here.

Get closer to your customers – especially when services are disrupted

If your contact center is struggling with incoming calls and you need to upgrade your customer support, the WhatsApp Business API is a great place to start. We at tyntec have helped travel companies leverage WhatsApp to improve customer experience and can help you do the same.

Keep your passengers informed and safe with WhatsApp

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