Travel, Technology and Customer Service
Hedges, Bonnie J., THE JOURNAL RECORD
The travel agency industry has evolved into a fast paced, e- business environment. To embrace the future of travel, travel agency owners need to have the tools and services that help their agents work smart.
Owners rely on innovators of information technology and leaders in developing products and services that will meet and fulfill each particular agency's needs. They also rely on our partners in the industry with innovative products and services that will position their agency in the forefront of travel distribution. In the efforts to keep positioned in the market, high labor and operation costs with low profit margins are cautiously reviewed.
Airline commission cuts created the opportunity for agency owners to be creative in their marketing and customer retention methods. To retain customers, travel agencies must provide more value, boost business and have the freedom to right-size technology.
E-trends are here to stay. I recently returned from Brussels, where everyone carried a cellular phone. Today on some cellular phones you can access your flight schedules, car and hotel confirmations. Soon you will be able to hit a button on your cellular, it will then call the car company or hotel company to reconfirm your reservations. These are just some of the innovative products that the travel industry must have access to and be able to communicate with. Globally every TV advertisement, radio announcement, newspaper and magazine ad end in a dot-com. So with all of this e-access why use a travel agency? Why use a lawyer or a broker? The answer is to reap the benefits of return on a relationship.
Customer service is a two-way street beginning with trust -- the customer must trust the provider and in turn the provider trust the customer. A travel agent has access to a wealth of information and service that we can provide to our customers. We trust that our customers will take advantage of the information we provide and use us as the booking source. A relationship begins.
So how do you as a customer select and begin building a relationship with a travel agency and an agent? It may take some shopping and interviewing, even surfing the Web.
You as a customer must feel trust. Look for stability and longevity. Five years ago before the airlines restructuring of distribution costs, you could find a travel agency on nearly every corner and in shopping centers everywhere. Now many agency owners have closed the corner or shopping center offices and combined their valuable resources, their employees, into one or two offices. By doing this overhead costs were cut and more defined emphasis could be placed on customer service and continuing education for their employees.
Travel agencies that have survived the industry re-engineering have joined large consortiums, like WorldTravel Partners or Giants Select. This affiliation gives them the opportunity to take advantage of large company discount buying. (The Wal-Mart, Kmart mass purchasing application).
Best of all, because of the large company "buying power" they can pass on to you the customer, discounted prices on quality products - - products: tours and cruise that deliver exceptional value for your vacation dollar. …