We’re closing in on two years since the global pandemic and while the US and UK economies are beginning to recover, we are seeing exponential labor shortages in the hotel and hospitality space. Consumers are feeling the impact by way of unprecedented long wait times, delayed or even cancelled services and deliveries, including interacting with exhausted service staff members. Companies are unable to hire fast enough while also dealing with absenteeism and record breaking resignations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 million jobs are available, yet over 8 million Americans are still looking for work. This labor shortage has hit the hotel and hospitality industry particularly hard, especially airlines, restaurants, and hotels. Today, there are 1.7 million available jobs in these industries compared to the 1.5 million lost at the start of the pandemic. In the UK, the pandemic and reduced immigration has brought about similar consequences. Now only 18% of hospitality businesses believe they can find the staff needed to run their businesses.
Businesses are doing what they can to attract workers back to work. Most have increased wages, while others offer sign-on bonuses and other perks. But, at the same time, many of these same businesses have invested in automation, increasing the need for differently skilled workforce.
It’s not that people are unwilling to work.
The circumstances surrounding work have changed due to the pandemic.
Businesses have to look at innovative ways to address the needs of customers and employees. Video Chat Customer Service is one of the best ways to stay ahead of the ever-changing consumer behavior and meet the new demands of employees. Video Chat is not new but it is the new normal. The business world would not have survived the pandemic without video conferences via Zoom calls, Google Hangouts, or Teams meetings. Personal relationships were maintained and strengthened via Facetimes, Skypes, and all other forms of digital communication. The situation has only accelerated the need for quick, frictionless, and virtual interactions. Critical roles in the hotel and hospitality service like customer service, reservations, sales, and other front-office functions via virtual and touch-free interactions are no longer just an option, it is now a necessity.
Why haven’t hotel and hospitality workers returned to work?
The hospitality industry faces significant challenges when it comes to labor now and in the years to come. For business owners to navigate these difficult times, they must understand and meet the changing needs of workers. For starters, health and safety is among the biggest concerns for frontline customer-facing workers. With uncertainties around the pandemic circulating, some are taking the “wait-and-see” approach. These industries require frequent face-to-face interactions with customers, and the workers who may be immunocompromised aren’t willing to take the chance. In addition, each state now has health and safety regulations that some workers are unable to meet.
The massive layoffs in 2020 allowed workers to re-evaluate what it means to work. More and more Americans have entered into entrepreneurship and freelancing over the last 12 months. Some now want shorter or flexible working hours, fully remote, work-from-anywhere, or a hybrid work structure which is unusual in the hotel and hospitality space. To date, many workers still have not figured out child care and other at-home responsibilities. Until these needs are met or normalized, the labor shortage will continue to be a challenge.
Can Video Chat solve the labor shortage?
Without a doubt, some roles require in-person, face-to-face interaction. However, there are many roles in the hotel and hospitality space, like customer support, reservations, and administrative or back-office work, that can operate in a remote setting. Video chat services can recreate the same face-to-face interaction and bridge that gap. Your customer connects with a remote employee to answer questions, solve queries, and update information. This channel is not new. Companies in various sectors like Ikea and American Express have utilized video channels for years with much success and here is how it can help the hotel and hospitality job shortage:
Video Chat customer service meets and exceeds the employee needs
Remote customer service roles meet the needs of many hotel and hospitality employees. Video customer service allows workers the freedom and flexibility to plan their days to suit both their work and home life. They save time and money by eliminating the commute, parking fees, and other in-office expenses such as going out to lunch or coffe runs. Companies may even reallocate the resulting cost savings on much-needed and at times long overdue employee incentives. While some companies are still adjusting to the possibility of long-term remote work, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Square have led the way by giving employees the option to work from home indefinitely. With hotel and hospitality, this is easier said than done. However, a video interaction can solve a more pressing labor shortage issue. The existing workforce could focus on in-person engagement, and remote staff can handle all other customer support needs.
Video Chat maximizes your workforce
Customers still get the much-desired face-to-face interactions and the added benefit of reading body language and understanding context. Video chat agents can also move into omnichannel services to meet customers in their preferred communication channel such as text, email, and social media. Managing multiple channels maximizes the productivity of your team while still providing exceptional service. While these customers receive help from your video chat team, the face-to-face workforce can now focus on more complex issues. In both cases, it’s doing more with less.
Video Chat keeps the competition at bay
Adding a video chat model to the hotel and hospitality sector can help businesses stave off competition in three ways. First, the talent pool available is global so there is less competition to hire and retain employees witin the same area or demographic. Second, giving tenured employees the flexibility to work remotely signficantly reduces the risk of loosing top-notch employees to the competition. Last but not least, the company will have a communication channel that their competition lacks. This one difference-maker means customers are more likely to go with the company where they are less likely to face service interruptions or delays.
Video Chat improves customer experience
The concept of video chat in customer service has been around long before the pandemic. For instance, Delta Airlines was one of the first airlines to implement video chat to make changes, lodge complaints, and provide feedback. Being this proactive has paid off as it has helped them manage the overflow of customer support needs during the pandemic. Since then, United, Southwest, and many other providers locally and abroad have added this communication channel because customers today don’t just expect customer service but a great customer experience (CX). CX is the customer’s perception of the company at every touchpoint. The more the business can meet customer needs and delight customers at every stage, the more they will buy from you and become your advocates. Video chat services in the hotel and hospitality industry can provide customers with a safer and more personalized customer experience, anytime and anywhere.
Consider outsourcing your Video Chat customer support needs
Even with these advantages, finding hotel and hospitality staff in the short term can still be a challenge. Setting up a new video infrastructure, training staff, and establishing new processes take time. And with the increased demand for this service, time is of the essence. Hotel and hospitality businesses should consider outsourcing their video chat support needs and here is why:
Hotel and hospitality businesses thrive with faster and accurate services. Today, 24% of small businesses and 66% of big companies depend on outsourcing. With staff available at a moment’s notice, hotels, airlines, restaurants, and other sectors can meet the increasing demands of clients. The added support allows businesses to move, react, or adapt quickly whenever there is a need to change or streamline processes.
Scale your staff while lowering your costs
Despite the shortage of labor, hiring staff is an expensive undertaking. Outsourcing your customer service in a video chat format gives businesses access to global talent. In addition, these outsourcing services can scale up or down as needed, giving businesses that “just-in-time" workforce at a fraction of the cost.
Get access to technology
You not only leverage the human resources when you outsource your customer service but the technology as well. Do you have access to artificial intelligence powered bots, faster technology, and/or more efficient customer tracking software? You will if you choose the right outsourcing partner! Leveraging new (or different) technology can make all the difference.
Keep your customers happy
Customer preferences have changed. More and more customers require digital channels to make purchases, ask questions, and make changes on the fly. Some retailers have failed to meet these expectations and they are seeing declining sales and low customer satisfaction scores. Video chat shows that a company is willing to go the extra mile for its customers. If done right and with the right partner, you will look like a million bucks to your customers when in fact, it’s way more cost-effective than you think.
Can video chat customer service make a difference?
Will the labor shortage end soon? Only time will tell. Some sectors are moving faster than others. However, the hotel and hospitality industry continues to struggle with finding and retaining staff. Raising wages can only do so much. In the long term, we need sustainable ways to serve both employees and customers. Video chat services can help employees work remotely while filling the gaps left by resignations and layoffs. And even if businesses think they cannot afford it, outsourcing is a true, tried, and tested solution to lower the operations and overhead cost while improving customer satisfaction.
At BCX, we understand how the labor shortage affects businesses. We are committed to supporting small and large businesses with high-energy, customer-obssessed, multilingual staff powered by the latest communication technology. Companies should not view video chat as a short-term solution. It should and will be an integral part of Customer Experience for years to come.