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Baleària + Zendesk: Serving passengers safely with seamless messaging

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Baleària implemented Zendesk Chat and WhatsApp in just two days. The move was part of a broader omnichannel strategy that allows passengers to safely access their boarding passes and receive support across any channel, including self-service.

"I think that Zendesk is one of the best customer care tools on the market, especially when it comes to user experience, across agents and coordinators and supervisors. From a user experience point of view, it was what we were looking for.”

Alessandro Zollino

Director of Customer Experience at Baleària

“Zendesk’s expertise in customer service helps us to get to know customers better. The tools offer us data on all the requests that have come in from each client and the channels they have used to submit them, giving us a complete history of their interactions; that helps us streamline consultations and strengthen relationships.”

Alessandro Zollino

Director of Customer Experience at Baleària


Chat SAT

2 days

Implementation time


Simultaneous agent chats

From the Balearic Islands off the eastern coast of Spain to the Bahamas, maritime transportation company Baleària has been transporting cargo and passengers for more than two decades, guided by its commitment to customers, innovation, and continuous improvement.

Those commitments drive the company’s customer-centric strategy, which is rooted in technology and people. In the midst of transporting more than 4.5 million passengers and 6 million meters of cargo in 2020—all during a global pandemic—Baleària decided it was time to offer omnichannel service to its customers.

To get there, Baleària enlisted Zendesk and Zendesk Master Partner redk’s help. Though it happened to coincide with COVID-19, Baleària’s omnichannel support launch moved ahead rapidly, with chat being rolled out in two days to enable agents to seamlessly work from home even as ticket volumes surged.

Quickly implementing chat helped Baleària reinforce its brand image and stay in touch with its customers. “The volume of contacts increased by more than 500 percent during the first weeks of COVID-19,” said Alessandro Zollino, the company’s director of customer experience. “In fact, in a month we receive almost the same number of requests that we are used to managing in a year. We would like to highlight that many companies in the tourism sector, faced with similar complicated situations, opted to close some of their customer service channels, but Baleària, faithful to our values, decided to launch a new channel strategy.”

Collaborating to excel in strained circumstances

Customers appreciated that decision, and it showed in Baleària’s customer satisfaction score, which held steady at 96 percent in the first weeks of the pandemic. That was no coincidence—contact center agents learned how to use chat in half an hour, enabling them to quickly jump in and help with soaring ticket volumes.

But two larger elements were in play: Zendesk’s adaptability and agility met Baleària’s needs, and the company’s contact center agents and other employees displayed flexibility, enthusiasm, and commitment, which contributed to a smooth implementation.

“This project was successful because of two main factors: Zendesk’s easy-to-use technology and the contact center team’s involvement in the project,” Zollino said. “Zendesk has proven to be a partner that perfectly understands our needs. Without both elements complementing each other, it would have been impossible to have successfully implemented so quickly.”

While moving agents to remote work proved necessary, it had an added benefit as well: increased cooperation between teams from different departments. Baleària’s adaptable teams helped the company meet COVID-19’s challenges head-on. “The versatility and flexibility of the company’s teams came in handy,” Zollino said. “We asked other departments to help with tickets. That was the first step toward my primary objective: a customer-focused strategy across all departments at the company. It is an ambitious, modern and necessary goal, one that will allow us to meet changing customer expectations.”

Zollino attributes Zendesk’s ease of use with agents’ ability to quickly switch between channels and perform well, even if it was their first time providing support. That’s especially important, he said, because anything that hinders quickly responding to a customer is a problem not only from the customer experience point of view but also from an economic point of view.

As Zollino sees it, seconds saved across hundreds of contacts add up to hours of saved time. He estimates that as the company implements more channels with Zendesk, the number of requests could be reduced by up to 20 percent, and ticket handling times could decrease by a similar amount.

“As contacts are managed more quickly, customers will have lower wait times; call abandonment will be reduced and customer satisfaction will improve,” Zollino said. “We want that last KPI to be at 90–95 percent. We have achieved it in chat and we hope to achieve it across channels as we roll them out.”

Meeting customers where they are

Before implementing Zendesk chat, Baleària rolled out Zendesk’s ticketing, help center, and partner voice app solutions. Agents now use Zendesk’s cohesive platform to respond to requests across channels. All of this was a part of the company’s move toward an omnichannel strategy.

“We are taking steps to convert the traditional call center that we had, which handled calls and emails, into a more modern and agile contact center, through an omnichannel strategy,” Zollino said. “This will allow our clients to be able to choose the channel that best suits them at all times—telephone, email, chat, instant messaging through WhatsApp, social networks, etc.”

Zendesk’s vision of the customer experience informs Baleària’s understanding of its own customers. “The tools offer us data on all the contacts of each client and the channels they have used, leaving us a complete history of the contacts that helps us streamline the consultation and optimize the relationship,” Zollino said.

Using WhatsApp to increase passenger safety

Baleària became the first Spanish shipping company to send board passes with WhatsApp. This was one of the security measures that Baleària implemented after the COVID-19 pandemic, which enabled passengers to avoid ticket office crowds.

Baleària also uses WhatsApp to send all travel-related notifications to passengers traveling to the Balearic Islands. When customers book passage on a ship, they authorize Baleària to use WhatsApp as a channel. Those passengers receive tickets for their reservation (including any vehicle passes) through the app and can sign up for SMS as an alternative. The only exception is when there is documentation pending.

“We want to use WhatsApp as a communication and reservation channel, [so we can offer] fast and quality service,” said Arturo Escartí, director of innovation and digital transformation at Baleària.

Offering robust self-service

Self-service is an essential part of Baleària’s omnichannel strategy, and it has set an ambitious goal of having 20 percent of its customers help themselves rather than lodge a support ticket. As part of this plan, the company uses Zendesk Guide for knowledge management, providing content that answers frequently asked questions.

However, success depends on gauging if content is useful for customers. A key part of measuring self-service content’s efficacy comes from the customers themselves, who can rate each article and offer feedback on ones that aren’t helpful. The support team reviews this feedback on a monthly basis to understand where there is room for improvement, including what new content needs to be created to address gaps. For example, the team can see which search terms were used and if they led to relevant results.

Meanwhile, Baleària is also working toward reducing customer effort and ticket volumes by offering customers the ability to place reservations through its website without contacting the company at all. Soon Baleària will be integrating internal tools with Zendesk so agents can seamlessly help passengers with their reservations right from the core Zendesk platform.

Trusting a key partner to configure solutions

redk, one of Zendesk’s Master Partners, configured Baleària’s Suite of Zendesk products (Support, Guide, Chat), Talk Partner Edition, Social Messaging (Facebook and Twitter), and Sunshine Conversations. Baleària uses the latter to proactively send boarding passes to users with WhatsApp.

redk also configured and adapted Zendesk’s chat channel to meet Baleària’s needs by adding a layer of artificial intelligence using the Zendesk AI agent. It also customized the channel so chats are routed according to whether they come in from travel agencies or individuals.

Baleària, Zendesk, and Redk partnered on delivering a true omnichannel strategy, focused on customer service. Its design is guided by Baleària’s values: bringing together brain (reason-technology) and heart (people).

I think that Zendesk is one of the best customer care tools on the market, especially when it comes to user experience, across agents and coordinators and supervisors. From a user experience point of view, it was what we were looking for.

—Alessandro Zollino, Director of Customer Experience, Baleària

Watch the video of Zendesk’s interview with Alessandro on the Zendesk Morning Show.