Service-First Approach Keeping Global Discovery Vacations, Travel Agents In A Boom Business
There is no doubt that the advent of the internet has radically changed the travel industry and how it functions.
The proliferation of online sites covering every aspect of travel, from airlines to hotels to travel agents, has resulted in companies having to radically rethink how to survive and succeed in this highly competitive environment.
J.D. Power commented in its recent Online Travel Agency Satisfaction report.
“While price continues to be an important factor driving customer satisfaction with online travel agencies, the highest-performing agencies excel by providing a superior website/online store experience, with clear layout and design, ease of navigation and useful information,” the company said in its report.
Perhaps stating the obvious, the report points out that high levels of customer satisfaction translate into higher repurchase rates. The reputation of the brand, and the consumer’s past experience with it, accounts for almost 70 percent of the decision to book with that company.
The research also revealed that problem resolution has a substantial impact on customer satisfaction and those online travel sites able to resolve customer problems will likely reap the benefit of product differentiation.
Customer service and problem resolution is the soft underbelly of online booking. Some companies, especially the larger ones, still only offer a 1-800 number and a series of pre-recorded messages. The frustration of being transferred from message to message by pressing a series of numbers is one of the most soul-destroying experiences known to mankind.
But that very weakness of online booking also provides opportunities for companies that recognize the problem, and turn it to their advantage.
One such company is Global Discovery Vacations, a comprehensive travel club providing week-long condominium stays, cruise and tour vacation services, and full-service travel agency support.
Emily Ceruzzi, Condominium Operations Manager says: “With travel sites, you don’t really have a name to refer to or a dedicated number to call and say that something is wrong. You get an 800 number and the hope that someone gets back to you. With Global Discovery Vacations, our members actually have an agent’s name and an emergency number, so there’s always someone to reach if something happens.”
A survey by American Express found that consumers value excellent service and pass on their experience to their friends. Unsurprisingly, consumers desire customer service representatives to be considerate and responsive, above all.
The J.D. Power research also found that around 20 percent of customers had a problem booking reservations online. Obviously, satisfaction among these customers is much lower than among those who don’t experience problems.
However, when problems can be resolved quickly, satisfaction can be salvaged. Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power says: “Online travel agencies need to provide a user-friendly Web experience to meet customer expectations.
Eric Stout, Global Discovery Operations Manager, says: “Even with something like airfare, the benefit of booking through an agent versus doing it yourself is that, if your flight gets canceled, you have someone to call and take care of it for you. We have a full support staff of more than 40 people to answer calls and provide reservation help. In some locations, we have on-site staff, so if something goes wrong with a condominium, a person can walk right to an office for direct assistance.”
Generally speaking, when price is the main influencing factor, the old adage that “you get what you pay for,” is especially true in the travel industry. Then, the only criterion that any company can use to differentiate itself is the quality of its service, and its approach to the concept of service.
Global Discovery Vacations is one of those companies that seems to have taken that lesson on board.