Agents call for flexibility, automation and clearer communication channels

Flexibility on balance due dates, better automation of communication channels, scheduled calls for the emergency escalation of urgent issues and directories of contacts still working are some of the requests made of suppliers by agents during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

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Speaking on the latest Travel Weekly Webcast, Fred Olsen Travel head of commercial Paul Hardwick said: “For those customers who have got balances due, being asked to pay thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of a balance when they don’t know when travel’s going to resume and if they’re going to be able to get a cash refund or if it will be a credit note, that’s a difficult conversation.

“As a result, we are starting to see quite a few cancellations at the balance payment stage.

“In the last few days, we’ve seen a few operators come out with shorter balance due dates, which has been helping and that’s been something that it we can get more flexibility on, from more operators, that would really help.”

Simon Morgan, chief executive of Tailor Made Travel in South Wales, also called for “as much automation as possible” for making changes and amendments to bookings.

“Tui has been quite useful with its online form that you can fill in to get something changed or amended. The more companies that can give us communication methods that don’t involve four-hour queues on the phone, the better. We are all working on 15-20% of our workforce so time is really precious.”

Steve Witt, co-founder of homeworking agency Not Just Travel, called for more operators to put in scheduled call times for agencies to escalate the most urgent of issues.

“Some operators have put emergency escalation teams in place so you have a daily call at a set time when you can hit that supplier with the most urgent issues, rather than sit in queues all day. If we could get more operators to do that on a scheduled time basis, maybe twice a week, that would be enormously helpful,” he said.

Witt added that if every supplier could also provide a directory of which staff were furloughed and which are still working, that would also be useful “so we know who we can and cannot talk to”.

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