Email, Chat, Phone - What every tourism operator should be doing

What you should be doing to improve your customer service on these channels.
Letitia Stevenson
March 29, 2019
You can flush your marketing money down the drain if you aren’t providing good basic customer service 24/7.

We now live in a technological era, where information is at travellers fingertips. There is an expectation of immediate answers and information. This poses challenges to tourism customer service channels such as chat, email, phone and in person.

Access to the latest reviews and user generated content means that customer service is even more important than it once was. Make sure you have the systems in place through chat, email, phone and in person to provide the best customer service you can. Every operator knows that great customer service = more bookings!


Email is still a well used method of communication worldwide that everyone is familiar with and trusts. The number of consumer and business emails sent per day in 2018 was more than 281 billion (Radicati Group).

Many operators have said to us that their emails are piling up and that it takes them 6 hours to a few days to clear them from their inbox. This maybe too late for travellers that have contacted you about an experience that leaves the next day.

The other problem we see with emails is that they have a low open rate, they can get lost in inboxes or even spam filters.

Here are a few things you can do to improve customer service through email

  • Use a contact us form on your website. Although it still sends an email you can apply a filter in your inbox to a certain folder. That way you can go to that folder knowing it's emails you should prioritise. You could even go to the extent of removing your email address from your website to force people to use the contact form!
  • Use a method for managing your inbox and keep it clean with unread emails. For example, once you've responded to an email move it out into another folder. That help keep your focus on things to be done.
  • Short responses are better than late responses.
  • Use different email addresses. One for customers to contact you with, and another to use for admin, suppliers and so on. That should help keep your address for customers less cluttered.
  • Forward your customer emails to a CRM system like Hubspot and Freshdesk. These systems give customers tickets and help you be methodical managing the conversations.
  • The last piece of advice, which we do not see very often, yet is very basic to set up is an automatic response. Set up a response to go out straight away when someone sends you can email which says something along the lines of “Hey, Thanks so much for getting in contact with us. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible during opening hours, 9 -5 Mon to Fri”. You could also include a link to something cool, or tell them why you are the best & they should wait for you to get back to them!


Chat is the fastest growing form of communication throughout the world. Currently there are over 2 billion users of messaging apps worldwide and this number keeps on increasing. The most used apps in the world are now messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Almost all studies show chat is the preferred way consumers want to communicate with businesses because of convenience, speed and accessibility. Many now choose not to ring.

Learn more about the statistics of the preference to communicate via chat in our blog article Why consumers want to chat.

All tourism operators need to be actively engaging through chat. Why? Because you can communicate with your customers in real time and give your customers the immediate answers they want so that they can go ahead and book. Many consumers now don't want to ring, so if they've got questions and you don't have chat you could be losing customers without knowing it.

There are best practices using chat:

  • You need to respond quickly. If you're longer than 5 or even 15 minutes that potential customer could have researched or found something else to do.
  • Don't put up barriers to chat such as email or names to begin chatting. Our experience shows this put people off contacting you, in fact only 35% of people will contact you compared to no barriers to chat.

Our recommendations:

  • Put a chat widget on your website, there are some free ones out there.
  • Try out Yonder's virtual assistant which does the hard work of responding immediately to up to 65% of chats. With Yonder you can personalise your chat with business specific automatic responses (powered by AI, natural language technology), manage your chats over website & facebook and integrate with your booking system.

Chat doesn’t have to be overwhelming and a drain on staff time instead it can be the backbone to great customer service.


Phone is a communication channel that operators still seem to favour. Part of this is due to the fact that it requires less time to talk with someone than to sit and write a reply in email. Phone also allows an easier flow of conversation and gives a very personal experience for the tourists. Google also states that it's still the most popular button for people to click on in google search results!

However, there are a number of downfalls with a phone system.

  • When you are talking on the phone you are unable to serve customers, unlike chat channels which can deal with multiple customers at once.
  • Our own tests have found on average 4/10 businesses pick up the phone when we ring during opening hours. You are losing customers if you are not answering your phone.

Improvements to the phone communication channel can include:

  • Using a call centre, although there are disadvantages to that as well such as staff competency and cost. It can cost $4 per call received, and training of staff may not be the same standard as your team can deliver
  • Use a callback system, which means that customer doesn't have to wait on hold.
  • Use a call system which you can place people on hold.  A great example of this used well was something I experienced recently at Canopy Tours Rotorua. When I was placed on hold they played  bird sounds to me that you hear while ziplining with them. It was fantastic and made me smile!
  • Extend your the hours you respond to the phone, for example a duty phone for the evenings.

Are you using chat, or you want to improve your response performance?

Learn more about chat in these articles:

Yonder is the leading solution for tourism providers to embrace chat and provide exceptional customer service 24-7. Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

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