Written by: Stefan Eng, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
A while ago, I received an email about a canceled flight for my daughter coming back from Australia. I made the reservation, and now, I received an email from the Online Travel Agent about the second leg of the flight, which was canceled. She had to travel the next day and overnight at the airport. At her own expense — end of discussion.
That was wrong, of course. I called the airline and their support in India. They replied to me that my daughter, of course, should have a room at the airline's expense. The only thing she had to do, was to contact the airline service desk upon arrival. So she did, and everything went smooth and without problems.
Trust. It’s all about trust.
So, exactly what happened? I am sure the Online Travel Agent was aware that the airline was the one to pay for the hotel. But they did not want to have the hassle of assisting me as a customer. I know for a fact that Online Travel Agents are looking for automation as much as possible. And their interest in actually have a dialog with customers is very little, if at all. And unfortunately, I have similar experiences with hotel brokers.
As I see it, they want the quickest path to your credit card. And then find the quickest way out again without the cost of serving you properly.
So, the trust I once had for the Online Travel Agents, and Hotel Brokers is gone.
Instead, I prefer the Retail Travel Agencies. You know, the travel shop around the corner, where you can meet the eye to eye. Maybe have a chat over a coffee before talking about the best airfares to New York. And “Value for money” hotel rates in Manhattan. I know the service fee is higher. But I am happy to pay since they care about me as a customer and see their travel agent job as a handicraft.
With the above in mind, I am now very picky with my choice of travel supplier. And I have my favorite ones. So, If I were to change this in the future I would check the following before making any reservations. I suggest you do the same.
First of all, always check how easy the travel agencies are to connect to, pre-, during- and post the trip. Make sure they have a presence everywhere in the travel process. It is possible to stay connected via phone, social media, or chat, like with your best friends.
With easy access to contact details – including phone number. If it is possible to book or not on the site is not key. But of course it is good. Regardless, you might want to call or chat with the Travel Agency to get further information. Or add a service like seating or luggage etc.
3. Physical office
Shows that the Travel Agency afford to have staff. And that they have a focus on the physical meeting. And that is what travel is about, isn’t it? To meet with each other!
And certainly you want to meet the person who is planning the most important and best weeks of the year. I mean your holidays, honeymoon, or your first time to experience an exotic destination. Or even your most important business trip.
Traveling is a positive value-added to life. That’s why we meet so many smiling faces when booking our trip and when traveling. I know its fiction, but still, who can hold back the tears watching the last scenes at the airport in "Love Actually."
Phone number and contact details should always be visible on the first page of the Website. And there should be a human being answering. And no pinball actions in “- Please select 1 for operator, select 2 for Sales select…blah blah blah.”
And definitely without rubbish like artificial “Emma’s” or “Anna’s” that send you to cyberspace... If I make the call, I want to talk with someone. A person. How about you?
Look at other service providers today. For instance, the telecom industry is very good at adapting to where customers are. So more of this would be fantastic.
If a company states they have a chat, then I expect someone to be there with me in a minute or two. Worst is a robot coming back with an automatic reply “-We normally reply within a few hours. In the meantime, read these articles”. That's not a chat, for god sake!
Call it a Q&A or whatever, but not chat.
6. Never pay extra for the possibility to call an Online Travel Agency
Some Online Travel Agencies ask the customers, in the buying process, if they want to buy the possibility to call them. (Or similar questions). For me, working in the travel industry means giving service to the ones calling and want to be customers. And assist them when things go wrong, or when they want to ask a question.
7. Cheap can be expensive
Whenever I travel, I look for the price. Who doesn’t? However, the price is only one of the factors that influence my choice. Apart from all the above, it is also a question about what guarantees and protection you as a traveler can get.
If you are looking at your present and favorite travel agent, do they meet these requirements? If yes, you have found a real dream team. If you still don’t know with whom you will accredit to plan your next trip, here are some final tips and tricks.
Using Airlines and hotels direct works as most of them are happy to contact and assist their customers. And they are using social media to reach out with information when things go wrong.
So, protect yourself from future trouble. Book via a Retail Travel Agent, Tour Operator, Airline- or Hotel direct. It helps those who care about you to survive this extreme situation.
Stefan Eng, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Stefan Eng has more than 37 years of experience working for Airlines, GDS's, Travel Agents, Tour Operators, and Airline IT Companies in this global industry. In 2008, Stefan founded the Travel Employees Networking Group on Linkedin. The group is now a relevant and strong platform to collaborate and discuss travel trends. Also, members can find open positions or search for new candidates. At present, the group has more than 43 000 members.
To support the group, Stefan established in early 2020 the site www.travelemployees.com, an Online Magazine & Marketing Portal for Travel Professionals. Here the audience can find articles, quizzes, and lists by Stefan and his Guest Authors, as well as opportunities to advertise for (or find) the world's greatest travel products and services.
Travel Employees Networking Group's Online Magazine Travelemployees.com has been elected to be "One of the Best Online Travel Magazines on the Planet" by Feedspot.
Stefan is also a consultant in the travel industry, providing services, especially Product Management, Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Web Design, and Movie Creation.