Customer Service
Jan 21, 2020

How We Raised Customer Service Hiring Standards While Scaling Up

Careers Team

Last year, our global headcount in Customer Service (CS) of fully trained hires grew by 60%, peaking in the summer season. CS Operations Manager, Meg Telson, and Raoni Duran, CS Team Lead, share some interview advice and how they raised hiring and training standards to improve customer service during our high growth phase.


What does customer service mean at GetYourGuide?

Meg: The customer is the core of our business, and if customer service is failing, then we literally don't have a business. Tao, our COO, put it best by asking, "Why do we have customer service? To build customer loyalty."

The CS team is considered a true value-driver for our customers. We're on the front lines of the business, so when we raise our hands and say we have a problem that needs solving, we have the whole company backing us up.

Can you give us an example of excellent customer service experience?

Meg: Rather than just refunding someone for a canceled tour due to bad weather or ill tour guide, a good CS representative would go above and beyond to improve their experience, be it pairing a customer with a similar activity or offering them something complimentary for their troubles.

Raoni: To give some context, my team specializes in our branded tours, called Originals. We make sure that whenever something unexpected comes up with these tours, our customers can still have an incredible experience at their destination.

Coming up with solutions is also a big part of raising the recruiting standards. You have to think beyond answering tickets and calls and find creative ways to build customer loyalty.

We communicate with customers over the phone or email. A few months ago, the Mona Lisa portrait moved to a different location within the Louvre, so the queue to see her was much longer. To avoid surprises, we called and emailed every customer who had a booking for this tour to let them know they should plan around a longer wait time.

How do you raise the hiring standards for customer service standards?

Raoni: Sometimes, we involve existing customer service reps in the recruiting process and ask them, "Is this candidate going to push the entire team to perform better than they already do?". This question serves as the alignment for both recruiters and the team and to determine whether or not the candidate has the potential to improve the quality of our work."

We have increased our hiring expectations but are always looking for people with strong motivation and customer focus. We recently redefined our performance framework and are looking for people who have passion, commitment, and a sense of urgency ⁠— someone who can communicate clearly, is positive, and embraces taking risks.

Meg: Coming up with solutions is also a big part of raising the recruiting standards. You have to think beyond answering tickets and calls and find creative ways to build customer loyalty. The service has to be just as incredible as the product itself.

We had a case where a customer booked an Alhambra tour, and it was canceled last minute. None of our products showed any availability on our site, but the rep called every single one of our Alhambra suppliers to see if they had any last-minute no-shows or free spots from other customers who canceled. They happened to find one supplier with space for this customer, rebooked them, and they were on their way.

The mindset we lead in our teams is that we're looking to build customer relationships and long-term loyalty instead of simply buying transactions. That mindset guides us in everything that we do.

Raoni: We look for people who we can imagine after six months in the job, can create a lasting impact for the customer ⁠— creating new ideas and initiatives. It should be someone who has a passion for building customers and loyalty. We should see that they have a personal, high motivation to develop. This would be someone who would shine in an interview.

For example, if there was a customer who was unhappy, would the CS representative say a) it's company policy there's nothing we can do and offer a refund? Or b) escalate the situation and see if there's something we can do that would make their GetYourGuide experience more memorable. We would rather someone choose the latter and explain how and why.

Is it difficult to raise the standards when the team is growing so fast?  

Raoni: Working with business process outsourcing (BPO) partners totally changed the game for us, we were able to scale operations very quickly.

BPOs allow us to ramp up multiple training groups at the same time in order to maintain our high quality and low response times, regardless of seasonal fluctuations in customer contact volume. These organizations also allow us to provide 24/7 customer care.

Meg: We started working with a BPO because we had to meet seasonal expectations. When we were a smaller company, we'd just hire a ton of people for high volume seasons. But outsourcing alleviated this issue. We partner with three outsourcing companies based on customer mindset, then make sure we onboard not just our service standards but also our company culture.

When we launch a partnership with a new BPO, we send trainers to deliver onboarding. They're supported by second-level reps from our escalations team and Customer Excellence reps from our quality assurance/customer insights team.

During the launch phase, our in-house trainers also train the BPO trainers, so that they can continue to onboard new hires whenever we need to grow BPO teams to support increased seasonal contact volume.

It's paramount to us that we send in our in-house team during the launch phase, in particular, to ensure that we're thoroughly transmitting our culture and standard of excellence to every BPO. Because regardless of where any one individual sits globally or the function they perform, in CS, we're all here to do one thing together: To deliver a world-class, incredible experience to our customers.

Raoni: We've always had high standards, and now with higher customer contact volume scaling with business growth, we're able to maintain our high quality and fast response time standards by outsourcing more front-line customer support. The majority of customer contacts are managed by BPOs, which means that in-house we have the freedom to innovate and experiment to create more impact for our customers.

The internal team has been moving forward with more groundbreaking initiatives. For example, we make sure we proactively reach out to customers to suggest a thoughtful alternative in case there is a change in their booking. That's better than customers simply getting an automated email simply informing them that their reservation is canceled.

How do you maintain quality on such a large scale?

Meg: We focus on culture and mindset throughout the whole journey. The mindset we lead in our teams is that we're looking to build customer relationships and long-term loyalty instead of simply buying transactions. That mindset guides us in everything that we do.

What does the customer service structure look like at GetYourGuide?

The department grew organically from a classic customer service department between GetYourGuide and the customers/suppliers, then we branched out to partner support for our tour and activity partners.

Customer Service (CS) team supports:

  • Customers: The travelers who book activities with GetYourGuide
  • Suppliers: The tour operators who offer their tours and activities on our platform
  • Affiliate Partners: Business partners such as online publishers and travel agencies, who resell the activities on our platform

The Customer Service Excellence Team is responsible for quality control using customer insight analysis. They help identify root problems that need to be fixed.

The Knowledge & Training team designs and delivers training programs and learning solutions in order to build, transfer, and continually develop excellent technical and soft-skill knowledge standards across the global CS team.

As we grew over the years, we created a CS Operations Support team. Here’s a list of our support functions and a light overview of what they do:

  • Workforce Management: Responsible for forecasting and staffing planning, contact volume analysis and steering to ensure service level agreement (SLA) adherence.
  • Operations Analyst: Tracks and analyzes processes, workflows, customer contact reasons, and contact volume.
  • BPO Management: Responsible for all aspects of BPO relationships.
  • Implementation Manager: In charge of project management, process management, and managing relationships with the partners that provide our CS tools and platforms
  • Platform & Applications team: Administer our CS platforms and tools.

Do you have any interview advice for someone who would like to join the customer service team?

Meg: Prepare some examples of how you went above and beyond for a customer. We're looking for someone who takes ownership of customer problems and creates solutions since we empower our representatives to push the status quo and think outside the box. We don't screen for call center experience. We screen for candidates who have a strong customer-focused mindset and are motivated to help people.  

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