Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
I sent an email to the customer service department of a major hotel company recently. The following day, I received an email from the company asking me to take a survey to let them know how they did with my request. The problem is they never actually responded to my question — in fact, I’m still waiting for an answer. Clearly, this company’s system needs some tweaking.
This incident notwithstanding, follow-up is actually very important. Of course, it’s much better when it’s personal (and not a badly timed auto-generated message), but it’s vital to be constantly monitoring a business’ successes and failures.
Follow-up is important to travel agents as well. At this year’s Travel Week, Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, pointed out that surveys say the most crucial act in the travel-buying process is for agents to follow up with their clients after the trip. The simple process of calling clients and asking them how their trip went — discussing the highlights and lowlights — takes their relationship from one that is merely transactional to one that places the agent in an advisory role. According to Upchurch, follow-ups are responsible for more long-term clients than any other factor. (To read more about Virtuoso, see “Return on Life.”)
It’s clear that we have a national crisis when it comes to customer service these days. Major companies spend much of their time trying to get customers, but they seem to have little regard for keeping them. This is especially true in travel, where you hear near-constant complaints about the way people are treated by this airline or that online booking site, for example. Such failure in customer service represents one of the greatest opportunities for travel agents — provided the agent does a better job at customer care and relationship-building than the mega-companies.
So for the sake of your future business, don’t skip the follow-up opportunity — just be sure to address any problems before you ask them how you did.