“Horror stories” about some travel companies’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis have damaged the industry’s reputation but have also played into Jet2holidays’ hands, according to its chief executive.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Steve Heapy said his company’s approach was already winning it new customers.
Jet2holidays has scored highly in rankings of how travel companies have dealt with cancellations and refunds, but he said the new business it is winning had in part been driven by other operators’ mishandling of the situation.
“The reputation of the travel industry has been damaged in some areas by the actions of some companies that have just not prioritised customer service at all,” he said.
“Customers and travel agents have been left hanging on, waiting for people to get back for them, working with no information.
“If a tour operator gives a poor service to the travel agent, it’s the poor travel agent that’s got to deal with the irate customer. And we don’t want that. We want to make people’s life easy – that’s one of the benefits of a package holiday, that we take all the strain. And you can’t suddenly abandon that when you go through times like this and say ‘it’s unprecedented times’.”
He added: “Of course it is, but you’ve got to do your best. And that’s what we did. But I think it will give us a competitive edge because we’re already receiving bookings from customers that are brand new to us. We’ve not seen them before and I think they’ve been attracted to us by the surveys that have been in Which? and MoneySavingExpert or wherever else, and I don’t think it’s done us any harm at all.
“So if you provide good service, customers will come back but you’ll also win new customers and that seems to be what’s happening.”
Asked how Jet2holidays had maintained customer service levels, Heapy said: “We were very careful not to furlough lots of customer-facing staff that would be dealing with cancellations, amendments and queries.
“We had a fully-staffed call centre from the start because our call centre is home-working so we didn’t have them all stuck in a building. They were working from home and able to provide usual service.
“We also drafted in 130 staff from other areas – trainee pilots, HR, product – all areas of the business volunteered some colleagues to help us out and to help answer the phones for our travel agent partners.
“And whilst the queries may not have been resolved at the time, we had people taking messages and then the queries were resolved and we got back to our travel agent partners and customers.”
Heapy added: “As always, we try to give the best customer experience possible. There have been some horror stories in some of these surveys about customers’ queries not being answered and taking ages to get back to them.
“You know, it costs marketing money to win a customer and I think it’s just stupid to let that customer go because you’ve not given them a great experience.
“The holiday experience for us doesn’t start when someone steps on a plane, it starts when they pick up the phone or visit the website. We didn’t see any reason at all why we should give a lower standard of service in times like this than we normally do.”