This week we held a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast on customer service and innovation, which you’ll be able to read about in a future edition.

In a typically fascinating session, our expert panellists gave some examples of great customer service they’d received, with common themes being transparency, speed of reaction and the ability to turn an enquiry, complaint or crisis into an opportunity to surprise and delight.

Another recurring topic was the importance of contact with real people – with technology a tool to enable good service rather than an answer in itself.

The timing of the discussion couldn’t have been more pertinent as it came shortly after I’d experienced both extremes of the customer service spectrum in high street travel agencies.

My requirements weren’t particularly complicated – helping a relative to pick up some foreign currency for an overseas trip – but the difference in experiences couldn’t have been more stark.

We were the only customers in the first agency, but after four-and-a-half minutes, we still hadn’t been acknowledged, so we left. In the second, we were greeted by a friendly and attentive agent, but unfortunately they didn’t have the currency in stock.

In the third, not only did they have the currency, but the agent gave us a great rate, offered us a cup of tea and chatted enthusiastically about the trip ahead.

If the winning formula for customer service is being able to deliver what the customer wants, when they want it, and in a way which will make them want to return, there’s no prizes for guessing which agency gets my vote.

Comment from Travel Weekly April 11 edition