Customer service is a demanding job on any day, and the challenges have mounted since the pandemic hit the shore. To address these challenges and seize the opportunities that come along, Gustavo Schmitz, Olala Homes’ Customer Care Manager, has formulated coping strategies and advice for agents to provide uncompromising customer service. Read on our interview with Gustavo for his professional insights and best practices.
Top Covid challenges: flexibility, last-minute bookings & illegal parties
To cope with changes of any kind, flexibility always comes high on the list of priorities. “In order to be more flexible, new processes are needed to cater to the new reality and to keep guest satisfaction to high standards”, said Gustavo. Since the outset of the pandemic, “guests are no longer planning their holidays very much in advance” and booking windows are getting shorter month-over-month.” In fact, 75% of new reservations are made 2 days before check-in and almost half of them are made on the very same day. Furthermore, with the prohibition of clubs operating, “young guests started to book apartments for throwing illegal parties,” said Gustavo.
6 Steps to overcome the challenges
Due to the uncertain travel environment the world currently faces, flexible policies are in high demand. “We have reviewed and adapted our internal processes, such as luggage on hold and early check-ins, and adopted a flexible cancellation policy in some properties. To address guests’ concerns and questions accurately and timely, we have built scripts with common questions about cleaning protocols and Covid-19. During the pandemic, we have also implemented self-check-in in 85% of our properties. To prevent illegal parties, we have raised both security deposit and the minimum booking nights, as well as implemented more operational security measures at some locations.
Prepare for the future: Advice for STRs
Moving towards a post-Covid era, what are the actions that STR players should take to satisfy current customer expectations & needs, as well as to prepare for the future? “They definitely need to be more flexible about reviewing old workflows and policies (e.g. cancellation policies)” said Gustavo. And changing the policies isn’t enough, “make sure the cleaning protocols are delivered clearly in the communication with your guests, and that the Operations and Customer Care team are aligned.”
Your mental well-being matters
No job is worth one’s mental health, including customer service. During this stressful time, it is vital knowing how to relieve pressure and maintain well-being. Gustavo suggests that customer service professionals should “define a work from home policy and make sure you have the proper working conditions. From time to time, managers can organize online gatherings so that the team can talk and share their concerns and ideas.” And what are the essential qualities for customer service professionals to succeed? “More than ever, professionals need to be resilient, patient and flexible to adapt workflows in this challenging time,” shares Gustavo.