Tour Operators and empathy with customers

Author: Lisanne Wiendels

According to Oxford dictionaries (2015), the definition of empathy, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Understanding what a customer feels and thinks is of great importance to a Tour Operator and should be an integrated part of the Customer Engagement Strategy. Building a relationship with a customer however requires an dynamic exchange of resources such as goods, services and information, this means that the whole process of Customer Engagement Management is important (Peelen, E., & Beltman,2013). Overall empathy is well explained in the customer empathy map which can be seen below. The customer empathy map is designed to bring a certain level of customer focus by encouraging an organization to see the world through the eyes and ears of the customer, taking their state of mind and physical environment into account (Peelen, E., & Beltman,2013).

When customers book with a tour operator, the tour operator or travel agent selling its products will be the first point of contact, nevertheless  all parties involved during the trip taken such as airlines, hotel and transfers will be part of the overall customer experience. The Tour Operator will always be the point of contact when customer have questions complaints or other requirements. Therefore in order to be successful it is important to have a good understanding of the customer relationship life-cycle. Relationship lifecycle management helps to identify the crucial moments in a relationship, those which deliver particular interest and effort to safeguard and expand customer value in both directions: the value of, as well as to, the customer (Peelen, E., & Beltman,2013).

Customers expect to receive efficient, effortless, personalized service when they interact with a Tour Operators. Though nowadays good service is getting more difficult to deliver, this mainly has to do with the fact that customer service has become a complex system. What is important is to have are channels of contact available that are most user friendly to the specific segment of customers (Leggett, 2013).  When we take a closer look at the travel oriented customer journey it consists out of 5 stages, dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing, the empathy map should be used to understand how to act in each of the 5 stages. In the first stage when the customer is dreaming he or she is thinking about going on a holiday after that stage the planning phase will start, marketing from the Tour Operator, positive Word-of-Mouth or previous experiences play an important role in this stage. The same goes for the booking phase where the customer is actually booking the trip, good customer service is important, for example when customers experience difficulties during their online booking online chat assistant should be available. The experiencing stage is also crucial for the customer relationship with the Tour Operator, when something bad happens like a delay or a cancellation in one of the tours this might lead to dissatisfaction against the Tour Operator. When this happens negative Word-of-Mouth can be spread during the sharing stage.  during each of these stages it is important as a Tour Operator to anticipate and understand in what stage the customer currently is in order to meet its  needs and wants and provide good service accordingly, or in other words to change the pain into a gain.

Cross-sell and retention are ways of showing empathy with a customer as it demonstrates the organization has been paying attention to the customers’ needs and wants. Retention overall means holding on to a customer  who is intending to end the current relationship it has with the organization. The organization can hold on to the customer by listing and offering a solution that fits the need of the customer at that specific moment. An example is when a customer has a complaint about the transfer from and to the hotel the Tour Operator can act on this by stating they understand the customer and make sure this will not happen again in the future or a compensation could be offered. Cross-selling on the other hand is the sale of a product to current customers who are already purchasing a product from the organization. This could mean an extra service such as priority boarding or a travel insurance that could meet the clients’ needs (Peelen, E., & Beltman,2013).




Leggett, K. (2013). Navigate The Future of Customer Service. Forresster

Oxford dictionaries, (2015). Definitions. Retrieved from:

Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. Part IV Marketing. In E. Peelen, & R. Beltman, Customer Relationship Management (Vol. 2, pp. 216-225). United Kingdom: Pearson Education Limited.



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