People waiting in line at an airport.
PHOTO: Karen

Eliska Dockalova has a lot on her plate. She’s director of customer experience for Czech Republic-based online travel agency Kiwi.com, which handles 100 million search queries per day and helps passengers with about 10,000 daily bookings.

If Dockalova had a wishlist as a customer experience professional for 2020, it’d be continuing to align her company across departments to deliver customer experience as a whole, take on more face-to-face customer service for passengers and continuing to strengthen the relationship with her company’s marketing team.

Those are some of the initiatives Dockalova cited in her recent interview with CMSWire. We caught up with her to discuss what’s top of mind for a customer experience leader of a nearly 3,000-employee organization responsible for creating strong experiences for the potentially most cranky customer of all — the airline traveler.

Syncing Departments on Customer Experience

Tackling what is a huge role with such a large scope alone would not be optimal, according to Dockalova. She noted that in some companies, customer experience only means customer service. At Kiwi.com, her mission is to take on customer experience as a whole, involving multiple departments and creating continuous feedback loops that answer customer needs. A big part of this, of course, would be product management. Is our product working, and what can customer experience professionals do to better work with and help product managers? “For me, what is most important is that we are absolutely synced across departments in 2020.” Dockalova said. “We are working on that now, too. It’s great that we are coming out with so many new features and so many new things, but unless we are all aligned internally in terms of the approach and what the impact is going to be on our customers, it is going to go wrong somewhere along the process.”

The customer experience team is focusing on listening to customers and feeding that information to engineers, for example. She credits that inter-departmental approach to creating many successful customer outcomes. “I think that this approach is sometimes missing in companies,” Dockalova said.

Related Article: How to Get Your Whole Company to Buy Into the Customer Experience Ethic

Eliska Dockalova posing for a professional shot
PHOTO: Eliska Dockalova

How Kiwi.com Handles VoC

Just how to take customer feedback and share it across departments is another issue. Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs help companies take customer insights and actually turn them into actionable outcomes by managing and using the feedback data effectively. It’s one thing to collect customer data, but quite another to glean insights and improve the customer experience directly from that feedback data.

Kiwi.com went the homegrown route for its VoC program. “We have actually developed a system internally where we are gathering all of the inbound customer feedback into this tool from a lot of sources,” Dockalova said. “And, we are quite happy with it. We call it an incident sorting system.” From that system, issues are routed and a JIRA support ticket is generated with those specific issues to the right departments. Product managers or engineers, for instance, will get alerts and provide feedback on the issue at hand.

“We created a flow which is going from the customer to the appropriate department,” Dockalova said. “It can be business development, or even marketing. With this approach, the right department fixes the issue and ensures that we close the loop.”

Related Article: 4 Tips to Get More From Voice of the Customer Programs in 2019

Going the Intelligent Route for Support

One investment Kiwi made recently to bolster its customer experience was an intelligent virtual assistant (VA) program to handle inbound support calls. Kiwi has a complex booking system used by a multilingual, multinational customer base in a high-volume travel environment. Passengers constantly need help with things like travel emergencies like flight cancellations due to unexpected bad weather. Kiwi.com handles transactions from more than 120 different countries, approximately 30% of which do not have English as the official language. The agency recently saw a 60% uptick in call volume. “We have outsourced call support centers all around the globe, and we were experiencing so much volume,” Dockalova said. “We were looking for a good partner to help us manage that, but at the same time keep the customer experience levels high, which is obviously super important for us. The front line is something we need to focus on, especially with the complexity of things we are offering and those we are about to offer and are putting a lot of effort into.”

Dockalova called Interactive Voice Response (IVR) unpredictable and oftentimes leading to a frustrated customer experience. She loves the “smart” route with call support, they partnered with a company whose solution can intelligently solve customer issues up front, and, if not, get them to the right agent for a swift resolution. Dockalova said the containment rate for the intelligent VA — resolution without transfers to a live agent — was around 40% on the English line.

"The IVA is really smart, and can do a lot of exciting things,” Dockalova said. “It’s comfortable for the passengers, which makes a huge difference. A lot of volume is deflected from the agent. It comes in handy, especially in those moments when we are experiencing some sort of travel emergency or crisis of any kind, where there is an influx of calls."

Face-to-Face a Goal for Customer Experience

While not a go-to for many companies, Dockalova is a big believer in face-to-face interactions. She envisions having Kiwi.com reps on hand at airports. It’s not something they have a big stake in yet, but they want to, according to Dockalova. “Maybe I'm a little bit old school, but I still think that it's one of the best things out there in terms of how you can provide an excellent customer experience and go the extra mile,” she said. “I would like to see what the options would be even for us, which is a company that focuses on automation. At high-traffic airports where people might be running into some issues, I don't really think it's a bad idea to have someone there to help them out and provide assistance in a way they will never forget.”

Customer Experience’s Relationship With Marketing

Marketing and customer experience generally can have some crossover. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. Other times, Dockalova would like to see a few less emails, she said with a laugh. She understands, though, that marketing’s job is to scope out prospects, keep the brand recognition programs going and collect leads for sales. Kiwi.com refers to its marketing department as its growth department. “The relationship between a customer experience and growth team is absolutely crucial,” Dockalova said. “And we are working to get on a day-to-day basis with the [marketing] department.”