Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper - in association with Gazetteers.com - calls on travel agents across the UK each week to check agency appearance, brochure racking, product knowledge, sales technique and staff attitudeTravel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper calls on travel agents across the UK each week to check presentation, attitude and service.

Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper in association with Gazetteers.com.     

THE TARGET ▼WANTED ▼
Cheadle, CheshireA romantic short break to New York

RULES
Each week, Mystery Shopper calls on agents across the UK. Shops are judged on six criteria:

Internal/external appearance (25%)
Sales technique (25%)
Availability checked (10%)
Product knowledge (20%)
Details explained (10%)
Request matched (10%)

Please note, no additional information will be given about Mystery Shopper’s visits.

Thomson
73 High Street, Cheadle

Although the scaffolding outside this agency marred its appearance, inside it was brightly lit and all the staff looked smart and professional.

As the consultant began to help me with my request, she asked if I wanted to book extra activities such as excursions or a show. When she found something suitable she explained the details and prices.

The consultant, whose sales technique was pretty average, used only one brochure – Thomson Tailor-Made Cities – and handed me a copy to take away. Mystery Shopper was a little disappointed by her lack of attempts to look for comparable deals through other operators.

Score:67%

Going Places
61 High Street, Cheadle

I was acknowledged instantly and referred to a consultant who had recently been to New York. She checked with Tradewinds, which she explained were part of Going Places and would be able to offer me the best deal.

True to her word, she found me a holiday that was £200 cheaper than anything offered by the other agencies. Her success may have been due to her checking prices for dates in the latter half of April – the other agencies had restricted their searches to earlier in the month, despite my saying I could be flexible about when I travelled.

All in all, the service I received here was good, but the sales technique and extras offered could have been a lot better.

Score:68%

Travelcare
The Shopping Centre, Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle

As this agency was quiet, I was approached by a consultant straight away.Instead of using brochures, the consultant used the agency’s own in-house system, ‘Escape’, which she seemed confident would find me a good deal.

When I said I would like to travel in April, predictably, she advised me to avoid the Easter-break period and school holidays due to the price and availability.

She found me a couple of options and explained the location of the hotels; she then found another hotel in midtown Manhattan which worked out to be a little bit beyond my budget.

The consultant had been to New York but as she had only stayed there for one day her personal knowledge of the area was not exactly vast.

That said, she was professional and interested and her positive attitude would encourage me to return to the agency. She gave me her card and explained which days she was available, but said any of the staff would be able to help me.

Score:70%

WINNER ▼
Harvey World Travel
25 The Precinct, Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle

This agency’s window display was sparse, which didn’t create a good first impression. This was quickly compensated for by an enthusiastic consultant, who was quick to look at several different holiday companies for me, explaining that most of them flew from Manchester with Continental Airlines. The best deal she found, through Cresta Holidays, was staying at a four-star hotel. She apologised for not having a Cresta brochure for me but in an effort to make up for it, showed me a picture of the hotel on her computer screen. Exploring alternative options, she then looked at the websites of Jetset, Superbreak and Gold Medal to check whether booking flights and accommodation separately would give me a better price.Having agreed that Cresta was the best deal, she then looked on Gazetteers.com to obtain an independent review of the hotel.I was given her card and all the details of the holiday she had found.This consultant stood out from the rest by being the most committed to finding me the best deal.

Score:72%

TOP FIVE TIPS

Tip 1:Suggest extras such as a luxury towncar from the airport – Resorthoppa.com will provide one from £80. For sightseeing, a helicopter flight takes some beating – try Keith Prowse or Attraction World.

Tip 2: The Empire State Building is a classic, but for a different high-rise view, suggest the newly renovated Top of the Rock observatory (atop the Rockefeller building). Book them in for dinner at the Rainbow Room Grill

Tip 3:Romance doesn’t have to be pricey – the free ferry to Staten Island offers one of the best views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

Tip 4:Use a restaurant guide such as Zagat or Harden’s to guide clients to the most romantic spots.

Tip 5:Go for broke in one of New York’s grand old hotels. The Jumeirah Essex House and the Plaza have both had a recent facelift – upgrade them to a suite for a real blowout. US specialists such as Virgin or Travel 4

SUMMARY

Mystery Shopper’s mission this week was to uncover the best deal on a five-day getaway to the Big Apple in April.

There wasn’t much in it when it came to comparing this crop of agencies. They all came up with the goods and closely matched Mystery Shopper’s request, although one managed to find by far the cheapest deal simply by searching for flights on a range of dates.

Sales technique and enthusiasm seemed to be lacking among two of the agents, but the winner particularly impressed with her genuine efforts to investigate as many options as possible.

 

Gazetteers.comAbout Gazetteers.com.

Gazetteers.com, from DG& G Travel Information gives you a single website that means you need never fear being mystery shopped again! Gazetteers.com combines all our unique and unbiased data – destination/resort guides, hotel reviews, tour operator details, passport and visa – and sorts it the way you want it. With superb search functionality and additional hi-tech features such as online brochures, photos and interactive maps, you’ll find it hard to believe that travel agents ever managed without it. Gazetteers.comprovides agents with all the product knowledge you need to meet and exceed customer expectations. Log on at Gazetteers.com.

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