Location: Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
Shopping for: A group tour to Australia for a couple
56 Queensgate Centre, Peterborough
In terms of appearance, this agency ticked all the boxes and was clean, well organised and had plenty of brochures on display for clients to browse.
Unfortunately, that’s where the positives ended.
There were three agents serving customers the whole time I waited. And what a wait – after 15 minutes with no greeting or promise that I would be served in due course, I left the shop.
Note: As the downturn bites, good service is paramount and you cannot leave customers waiting. From now on, any agency that makes Mystery Shopper wait longer than 15 minutes without acknowledgement will not achieve a score. (See editor’s comment: customer service should be a priority.)
Park Road, Peterborough
There were no customers and two agents when I arrived. After browsing for a minute, I was approached by an agent who listened as I told her
I asked if group tours were a good way of seeing the country and expressed my concerns. The agent asked if I had been before and said I needed some ideas of locations to visit and offered me some brochures. She then asked me if there was anything else I needed, thanked me and said goodbye.
The agency was clean and tidy and information was available to customers. The consultant who dealt with me was very polite and friendly. On the downside, she asked me only one question and failed to answer mine – she did not seem interested in my enquiry.
Unit 3 Serpentine Green, Peterborough
With five agents and just two customers, I was surprised when, after five minutes, I was still not acknowledged. So I approached an agent. She stopped what she was doing and greeted me.
The agent attempted to establish my needs by asking where in the country I wanted to visit, for how long and if I had any knowledge of the destination.
I was handed some brochures and advised to read up on where to go and when. She then invited me to come back and go through the options and prices when I had a better idea of what I wanted.
This was not an ideal performance – the agent wasted an opportunity to demonstrate her product knowledge, but the service was polite and friendly throughout.
63 Queensgate, Peterborough
The four agents in the shop didn’t manage to greet me immediately – it took them three minutes – but this was understandable as they were all serving customers.
I explained what I was looking for and was asked which part of Australia I was interested in. When I said I was not sure, the agent asked me when I was thinking of going and if I knew anything about the country.
Rather than telling me about the country, she simply explained it was big and suggested that it would be a good idea to do some research. I was offered a brochure and invited back when I had an idea of locations and dates. We did not discuss prices.
She asked me if I needed anything else, thanked me and said goodbye. The agent was friendly, competent and seemed interested in my enquiry.
Congratulations, Thomas Cook, Peterborough. One of your agents will be staying at Palm Island, the Grenadines, courtesy of Elite Island Resorts, after coming top in this week’s Mystery Shopper.
Palm Island lies on its own 135-acre island in the Grenadines. The five white sand beaches are complemented by 37 guest rooms that are dwarfed by the palm trees and styled with their island setting in mind.
Every week for the next year the travel consultant who gets the highest Mystery Shopper score will win a seven-night stay for two at an Elite Island Resorts property. Flights are not included.
Tip 1: Australia is a vast country so it’s worth genning up on the destination to help sell it. Become an Aussie Specialist by undertaking Tourism Australia’s training programme. Go to specialist.australia.com.
Tip 2: Clients may want a themed tour, such as a wine tour offered by Travel 2/4, Qantas or Gold Medal Travel, or a safari offered by 1st Class Holidays, Naturetrek, Qantas, Travel 2/4 or Gold Medal.
Tip 3: Most operators offer a range of touring options – independent, escorted, small or large – so try to discover what type of holiday clients want.
Tip 4: Upmarket clients might want to be part of a luxury small group tour that involves staying in exclusive wilderness camps. Australian Pacific Touring offers such tours.
Tip 5: An alternative to a tour is a flydrive, which offers more freedom. Check out 1st Class Holidays, Travel 2/4 and Qantas.
Mystery Shopper scoring system
- 60% Advice and product knowledge
- 12% Customer service
- 8% External/internal appearance
- 7% Welcome
- 7% Farewell
- 6% Staff presentation
Terms and conditions: Reservations must be made directly with Resort Marketing International (fax: 0870 160 9656). This prize is valid for a maximum of two adults. Reservations cannot be made more than two months prior to arrival date and are subject to resort availability. Certificates may not be redeemed for cash and are non-changeable. The prize is subject to changes without notice and are subject to availability and cannot be taken over Christmas, new year, Easter or January/February or school holidays. This offer does not include flights, transfers or insurance; the prize is for accommodation only. Should the hotel be sold or suffer any material change resulting in the closure of the property during the validity of this prize, Elite Island Resorts will be unable to honour the prize and cannot be held liable for alternative accommodation.