travel agent customer service

Travel Agent Customer Service is Not Created Equal

I want to go to London. Now, in the last few years or so, I’ve been working with a travel agent (yes, they still exist) to try and get the best price. I figure they’re actually experts at this and know the tricks and turns better than someone like myself plugging into Expedia. Pat at Marlin Travel in North Vancouver has been swell. She got me to Boston and Mexico at both pretty great deals.

But, for London, I was getting impatient. Pat was on vacation and that price she quoted me before she left (that I didn’t take) was changing fast. What to do? Well, how about trying another travel agent? Hello, Flight Centre.

My girlfriend and I had some time to kill before going to see a movie when we happened across Flight Centre, a company I’ve only briefly ever used but window shopped many a time. Before I give you a rundown, you should know what I usually get from Pat at Marlin.

I provide: a location, a timeline(ish), and a request for the lowest cost available.

Pat provides: cost options and proposed dates that may or may not work. If they don’t, she looks again.

Now here’s my Flight Centre experience. We sat down with a clerk who asked us the usual questions: When, how long, where??? Answers: October, about a week, London. We made perfectly clear that we could move our time around depending on the best price she could get. Well, her answer was pretty clear: I’m going to do the bare minimum. She gave us an arrival date, a departure date and a price. No options. No alternatives. No recommendations. In the month of October, you can only go at this time (FYI – it was also about $100 more than a Marlin quote we got later that day). Apparently she noticed my complete lack of being impressed by responding with a “if you find a better deal, we’ll beat it by 10%…”

Wait, so let me get this straight. I’m going to work closely with another travel agent who will try to build a rapport with me, assess my needs and find the best deal just so I can turnaround and say “thank you very much but your effort is going to be rewarded by me going to another company who didn’t do a damn thing. You did all the heavy lifting but I’m saving a few bucks with the human automated service over here.”

Sorry Flight Centre, I’m sure you’re lovely people but this is the perception you provided. The clerk did very little and excused it with a discounted fair to make up for the lack of service. Sadly, I’m sure that works for some people. You wouldn’t be in business if it didn’t. It just saddens the hell out of me.

FYI – I went back to Pat after she returned from vacation and she got me exactly what I was looking for at a much better price. You can kind of guess that I’m not going to go get that additional 10% off from Flight Centre.

THE CONCLUSION:

Great service and relationship building are what a business should strive for. If your whole hook is that you’ll “vulture” others’ services with a discount, than you’re missing the whole “build loyalty or long term success” thing.

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