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Comment: customer service should be a priority for the travel industry

What’s the first thing you do when you want to ensure business success? You give your all to customer service.

There are several golden rules: be nice to people, have the information they need at your fingertips, deliver it cheerfully and never keep people waiting.

I’ve just cancelled a contract with a dominant telephone provider because a week of being passed from charming pillar to unhelpful post in a call centre – all to get a year-long dodgy connection sorted out – proved bad for my mental health.

This will resonate with agents who’ve long complained about operators not answering their calls. So much so that Travel Weekly reporters took it upon themselves to pose as agents and investigate tour operators’ booking lines over a few months.

Believe us, ‘on-hold hell’ exists. The multiples – probably still sorting out minutiae after consolidation – come in for criticism. Clearly, some are trying to clean up their acts.

But will they? If they don’t, smaller operators will skim off the business. Come on, operators – why should agents keep their customers waiting while you take your time to pick up the phone? All they want is answers about your holidays.

If an agent loses a customer because of your inefficiencies, everyone in the food chain loses out. What a mistake, especially in an economic downturn. Can’t you put more useful information for travel agents on your websites?

Some agents, however, are no angels either when it comes to customer service. This week, Mystery Shopper was kept waiting for 15 minutes without so much as a nod in her direction while agents busied themselves elsewhere.

If they were overstretched, surely Mystery Shopper could have been offered a smile and a seat for starters?

In our campaign for good service, we’ve introduced a new rule: Mystery Shopper will fail to award a score if kept waiting for 15 minutes or longer without acknowledgement.

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