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How is Support for the Largest Air Ticket Metasearch Engine Organized

Katerina Vinokhodova, a co-founder of Usedesk, interviews the Head of Customer Service of Aviasales Nezhdana Momotkova. Aviasales uses both Usedesk and AppFollow customer support tools to reply to app reviews and support their customers. Nezhdana shares insights on how to grow a first-class customer service from outsource to a full-house team.

Katerina: As far as I know, Aviasales didn't have its own mobile app customer support before. It sounds amazing — so many users, a big company — it would seem that there must be a huge staff to maintain service. Please tell us how it really happened and why you decided to form a customer service team.

Nezhdana: We can't say that we had no support desk at all. Most accurately, we hadn't focused on developing it due to the specifics of our service. Aviasales is a metasearch engine. We don't issue tickets, or process payments, or check in, or exchange tickets if needed. We just redirect a traveler to a travel agency's or airline's website to buy a ticket there. Despite the rather simple scheme, though, users often ask us such things as: "Can I take a decorative rat aboard?"; "Do I have to apply for a visa if I come to London in transit?"; "I bought tickets, but didn't receive them. What can I do?", "My flight was canceled—how can I get a refund?"

For more than 10 years of operation, our support had been aimed at informing users of where and with whom they should resolve flight-related issues. The only thing that we can help with is to find a ticket and to navigate the website. Other issues are outside our area. Only in exceptional cases have we facilitated solving issues with a partner. Now our position is different. Users trust us, so why should we redirect them elsewhere if we're able to sort out their problems ourselves? We have rich experience and know how our market works. One of the global goals of support now is to increase the literacy of travelers, in particular in the field of air travel. Plus, our we want to help with issues that may arise after buying a ticket from our partners.

KaterinaWhen you enabled contact channels and saw the flow of inquiries, were you surprised by the number of questions?

Nezhdana: Formerly, we had been integrated with another help desk software, which was unable to provide us with an overall view. For instance, social media had been the prerogative of SMM managers only, so the support team had not been monitoring them 24/7. After moving to Usedesk and configuring the necessary channels, we weren't surprised by the number of inquiries. It was quite expected and already increased by 20% in three months. Now we receive hundreds of support requests daily, across all channels.

Katerina: Your SMM is one of the wittiest on the market. Do operators adhere to the humorous and funny manner while handling inquiries? Are there any special rules or guidelines for communicating with customers?

Nezhdana: Yeah, we have a so-called "Tone of Voice" — a set of rules that we strictly follow. Any social network deserves distinct treatment, so what works on Facebook might fail on Twitter, and vice versa. Sometimes we cross the line — in such cases we immediately get our hands slapped by our PR team. But what else can we do if users like it?

Katerina: How do you address customer inquiries now and what tools do you use?

Nezhdana: We employ the customer support management software from Usedesk to interact with customers. All mobile app reviews and messages from our site are collected in one place. This saves our employees time by simply moving from ticket to ticket.

Also, the key convenience for us: straight from Usedesk, we can contact a partner about any customer inquiry. A customer ticket will be labeled "on hold" until we sort it out. Once we receive all the explanations from the partner, we get back to the customer with a final solution. This tool helps us track resolution time, agency performance, and the correctness of its actions.

Another pioneer integration was AppFollow. This is a convenient service that we had worked with before to track app store reviews. Imagine: in other companies employees still have to manually log in to Google Play or App Store and reply to app store reviews from a desktop website. We get app reviews directly in Usedesk. Moreover, we have configured tags to create star-based categories, and assign tags based on the context. This way, based on the report, we see what users specifically dislike and where the product needs improvement.

Katerina: What are your key metrics now to evaluate customer satisfaction and employee performance?

Nezhdana: Currently, our cornerstone metrics are SLA (service quality requirement that concerns response time in our case) and CSI (satisfaction rating). Plus, additional quality control on compliance with business processes.

Katerina: What are key support ticket topics? Tell us about the fieriest stories and the ones that grabbed you.

Nezhdana: One of the first cases that I was told about when I came to Aviasales was an incident with Bali. The customer got to the airport and found out he'd missed his flight. And yet, his printed tickets told the opposite. So, the customer's reaction was expected: outrage and failure to grasp what to do next. No money to buy a new ticket, compounded by visa overstay risk. The customer wrote to us, and while we were trying to find out the reasons for what happened, our colleagues got him on a plane to Dubai. They also booked a hotel room for the customer to wait out a long layover, and then they put the customer on the first convenient flight home. On the customer's return, it was discovered that it had been a partner's fault. Those responsible were punished, and the customer was happy with the service.

There was another case where customers actively complained that they were unable to exclude a paid service while buying a ticket from one of our partners. According to our rules, travel agencies must not include any additional services by default. The price shown by us is the price that must apply at the purchase stage. As it turned out, the agency hadn't violated the rules, but the explanation given under the paid service was so complicated that even we couldn't understand which button to click to cancel the service. We worked on the case with the agency and laid down our conditions for wording, which were considered and implemented. "Mistaken" services were canceled and money returned.

Katerina: Please tell our readers, all of whom have used Aviasales at least once, how to contact you and what you can help with.

Nezhdana: To date, the main channels are email and social media. In the future, we will introduce live chat customer support and messengers for more immediate responses.

The agency you bought a ticket from must help you in any case. But if it failed for some reason, feel free to ask Aviasales.

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Looking for customer support software to track your customers' troubles and needs? Try out AppFollow integration with Usedesk or another help desk customer service tool. We support Zendesk, Helpshift, Help Scout, Freshdesk, Desk.com, Intercom, and others.

Originally posted on Usedesk blog.

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