Businesses must ask, ‘what sets us apart?’, says Barrhead president Jacqueline Dobson

In a year that has been filled with uncertainty for many retail industries – from Brexit queries to high street closures – businesses must ask themselves, “What sets us apart? Why do our customers come to book or buy with us?”

We asked ourselves that question earlier this year and the majority of the answers centred around one key theme: customer service and satisfaction.

Providing exceptional customer service is something that we as a business have taken great pride in since our inception back in 1975 – it runs through the absolute core of our values and is one of the reasons we have continued to grow.


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We know that innovation is key, keeping up with market trends is crucial and providing good value for money is non-negotiable in this competitive market however each of these elements are incorporated into our strategy as a result of ensuring our customers and their needs always come first.

There is a balance that must be struck: forward-thinking innovation and shiny brand-new ideation with good old-fashioned customer service. It’s a winning combination, so long as you never lose sight of how important the latter is.

Across our business, we’ve introduced Back to Basics training for all of our employees. We’ve realised the benefits of pausing and reflecting on what good service means and how exactly we deliver it. Barrhead Travel averages on a 47% repeat client ratio – a strong retention rate for the travel industry – because we know what matters to our customers and ensure we personalise each experience.

According to Google research, 59% of millennials would pay more money to tailor-make their trip. The scope for opportunity in the millennial market based on that research is virtually limitless but there remains a need to ensure that you have the customer service skills, training and expertise to be able to offer true personalisation.

Our Back to Basics initiative is designed to remind our consultants that personal relationships and small gestures can go a long way to retaining customer loyalty. As well as ensuring that every single one of our employees has a training plan designed to continually improve their product knowledge, we recognise that personal growth and customer service sessions are equally as important. Training can range from roleplays within our dedicated Training Academy to real time coaching in our unique Live Pod which allows consultants to have the full support of our training team while taking real bookings and enquiries from customers. In addition, our e-learning platform provides a more informal route to learning and we can provide webinars and online training which can be rolled out company-wide

We’ve reintroduced refresher sessions on the real value of service – such as the importance of good communications with our customers – and we have already seen great results from this. After all, you can introduce myriad new gadgets, invest in countless digital platforms but if you have not mastered your basics, then you may be fighting a losing battle.

Trends will continue to evolve and new technologies will emerge to help us along the way but offering good customer service will never go out of fashion. We may be reverting back to basics, but having exceptional service running through the foundations of our business is what will prepare us for the next stage of growth.

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