Comment: Service is the key to being valued

Silver Travel Advisor’s Lisa McAuley says the trade needs to better showcase its talents

Fresh off the back of two trade shows in the US and London, I’m filled to the brim with refreshed product knowledge and energised through reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, and I also made valuable new contacts.

For me, like so many of us, the travel industry is more than just a job. After so many years, what I do in my professional life has become part of what defines me. And despite everything that a career in travel throws at us, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

What other industry gives you the opportunity to chat to a long-serving employee at Graceland Memphis whose office overlooks Elvis’s backyard? Or talk wine production and touring in Oregon? Or visit the atoll in Belize (which, I discovered, is the world’s second-largest after the Great Barrier Reef)?

The people I’ve met and the facts, stats and snippets I’ve picked up in the last two weeks all remind me why I love to travel and promote travelling so much.

Why am I writing about this, I hear you ask? Well, I’m hoping to highlight the need for continual improvement in product knowledge, expertise and customer service.

Sadly, we work in an industry in which there will always be a percentage of the public who think they can easily replicate what we do with a ‘DIY holiday’.

But if we’re not showcasing our expertise and talents, who can blame them? I wouldn’t cut my own hair; I pay a professional. And I have an accountant whose vast knowledge I pay for. Why? Because I value the service and the end results those professionals deliver.

So why don’t people pay for the expert services travel agents provide?

Earn trust

At Silver Travel I’m always asking myself whether people value what we do and continually wondering how we can improve.

When a Silver Travel follower named Andrew posted recently on our Facebook page to say Silver Travel was the “only place I trust to give me the full truth” when it comes to holidays or travel, I grinned like the Cheshire Cat! But despite receiving comments like this, we never rest on our laurels.

With more years’ experience between us than we care to admit, the team and I are devoted to learning more about what our world has to offer so we can amplify the right stories and make informed recommendations for our members.

While we’re no longer in the eye of the pandemic storm, we all recognise the industry still has its challenges, and when you’re dealing with challenges it’s easy to get sucked into a firefighting mentality.

If that sounds familiar to you, then pause and remind yourself why you do what you do. Find a little time each day to do some of what you love to do. Both you and your customer base will appreciate it.

Resolve complaints

We’ve all been there: on a call with or in front of someone who is either stressed or bored. Either way, you remember the service for the wrong reason.

Someone wrote to me recently telling me of their experience with an operator that had left them less than satisfied. The lady hadn’t booked with us but wanted us to know what she’d encountered.

Interestingly, the reply to her initial complaint was peppered with the line, “We thank you for your feedback”. This response clearly aggravated her. In her mind, she’d submitted a complaint, not feedback, and she expected it to be addressed as such. I contacted the operator in question, who swiftly responded, took ownership of the situation and promised to liaise with the customer.

There’s an abundance of research suggesting dissatisfied customers typically tell nine to 15 people about their experience, and that a staggering 74% of consumers are thought to stop doing business with a company when they’ve experienced bad customer service.

However, let’s flip this: there’s a great opportunity right now. For those individuals and brands which demonstrate attention, care and superior knowledge, we may just see consumers finally giving our industry and its workforce the appreciation it so deserves.

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