We’re Customers Too…

I am very lucky that being Malaysian, if I fancy lunch or a beach getaway, I can drive to any of the neighbouring states. But sometimes, I feel like dipping my feet in a different ocean or sipping coffee against rugged snow peaked mountain. At times like this, I consult travel agents to get a flavour of available options.

As ‘experts’ in travel, planning and customer service, instead of a breezy trail leading to my holiday, I tend to experience the following:

Dear X, this is my third email to you as I could not get through by phone. Are my bookings confirmed? We leave in 2 weeks and I still haven’t heard. Await your reply.

Sorry, I’ve been busy with other bookings and I haven’t done yours. Below are the tour packages and excursions you can do.”

But, I told you I’m not interested in commercial tourist attractions. Can you please suggest places that the locals visit? Yes, I understand this is the popular route with customers but I am not interested. Which ones would you recommend on the excursion list – there are a couple which look rather similar.”

“It’s all explained on the list. Once you’ve decided, please let me know.”

“But this is not what I want.”

“Sorry, that’s all we have – you can try other places. I’ve got other urgent bookings to do.”

You may ask why go through travel agents when you can plan things yourself as there are more than enough resources available on the net. Backpacking is less common amongst Malaysians and some amount of reliance is placed on travel agents when planning a holiday to a distant place.

What I’ve encountered is the agent is keener on doing a lazy sale – pushing of tours and packages that are popular with most customers, and is quick to dismiss non-conventional queries. And, if I keep insisting, I get the ‘fly treatment’. A shoo away to consult somebody else or find out the information on my own.

What happened to getting to know your customer? Isn’t that the foundation of sales?

As a customer, I understand there’s a lot of information available but I’ve come to you (travel agent) for a reason. You (agent) are a portal of travel information. Booking and planning holidays is part of your job. Because no customer is the same, you could or would have put together several variables for each route and I’m just trying to tap on some of that information. That sounds like a perfectly legitimate thing to do. Right?

If you (agent) have not done this before, I’m not a bad customer for asking you these questions and my holiday does not become less important. Some compassion would be nice.

Understanding the customer is the foundation of a positive working relationship. It’s only when the agent understands the customer, the agent can suggest suitable options.

When sending across optional tours, why not consult the tour operator that you (agent) are partnering with and highlight the recommended tours to the customer? Where there are similar sounding tours, spell out the differences, be it cost or levels (beginner/intermediate/advance).

A little compassion goes a long way. It is important for the agent to understand that the customer is likely to be an anxious bunny until the bookings are confirmed.

Each customer is an agent’s priority, at least that’s how the customer sees it. Why not attend to these basics:

  • give approximate time lines on when the customer can expect a revert;
  • update customers on the status of bookings;
  • follow up with the customers and minimise the customer’s calls.  (Agent may consider better choice of music to be played to the customer whilst they are on hold);
  • be dependable – give updated information (train and bus timetables, opening hours of tourist attractions) and provide a list of helpful numbers (hospitals, embassies).

We’re customers…not flies and what I’ve mentioned above are the basics, but often ignored by agents. It would be awesome if agents could get this right as it would certainly sparkle the travel experience from the start.

Well, these are my thoughts, a boho chic born with a heart to travel the world. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

*This article was first published in More Than Footprints Magazine, Opinion (http://www.morethanfootprints.com)

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