Shopping for: A last-minute ski holiday over half term for a family of four
50 Sidney Street, Cambridge
Despite the scaffolding covering the outside of the agency, I could make out some eye-catching advertisements. Inside was bright and modern, and with four agents and no other customers I was served immediately.
I told the agent what I wanted and she went off and found me a brochure, Crystal Ski. She merely advised me to have a look and decide where I wanted to go. I’d already told her we weren’t fussy about location, but she didn’t seem concerned with last-minute availability.
When I asked about price she just said it would depend on location. It would have been nice if she’d offered to do a search on what was around.
I felt as though this agency didn’t really want my business and would not return.
28 Fitzroy Street, Cambridge
There was only one agent in this busy branch so the level of service she could give me was affected.
I had to wait for 10 minutes to be served, and quite a queue of people had developed so she was rushed throughout our chat. However, she did her best to offer me good service and was very friendly.
The brochure stand was well stocked, and she gave me a copy of Crystal Ski, talked me through what was included in packages and said there was still availability in France and Italy.
She didn’t give many details about budget or the facilities I was looking for, but estimated we could travel for about £500 each.
She gave me her card and made a good effort to help me when she was busy
8 St Andrew’s Street, Cambridge
This agency looked inviting and an agent was quick to assist me as I entered the branch. She was warm and friendly and maintained good eye contact throughout.
I actually had the benefit of advice from two agents who both offered useful information. They asked plenty of questions, checked three tour operators in an attempt to suit my requirements and gave me detailed information on my options.
I was given a quote for a holiday with Crystal staying at the Relais des Alpes with transfers from Grenoble for £3,876 half-board.
She didn’t try to close the sale, telling me I could book online or over the phone, but she did give me a business card and took my details.
10 Rose Crescent, Cambridge
I was extremely impressed by this agent who was friendly and spent a great deal of time with me. She built up a great rapport, asking many questions to establish my needs but in a way that felt like an informal chat.
She sourced five quotes through Ski Independence, going through the details of each one. I was offered half-board for a week at La Plagne for £3,293, at Val Thorens for £4,300 and at Obergurgl for £5,133.
Self-catering at Champery was £3,241 and at Alpe D’Huez it was £3,225.
She mentioned insurance, and gently tried to close the sale by letting me know there was limited availability and it might be a good idea to book now.
This was by far the best of my visits, with the agent doing all she could to find the right holiday. Nothing was too much trouble.
She gave me her contact details and took mine when I left.
This week Mystery Shopper required agents to provide sound product knowledge and sheer time and effort.
The agent at Premier Travel gave both in abundance, demonstrated great interpersonal skills and was rewarded with a very high score.
At Thomas Cook and Thomson, agents gave a decent service, the latter putting in her best effort despite understaffing in the branch.
Flight Centre let the side down in Cambridge with an apathetic performance which did the branch no credit.
Top five ski deals
- Inghams offers seven nights at the four-star Hotel Alaska in Pas de la Casa from £440 departing March 1
- First Choice offers seven nights’ half-board at the Hotel Strasshofer in Kitzbuhel from £359
- Neilson offers seven nights’ half-board at the Hotel Tyrol in Kitzbuhel from £399 departing March 7
- Crystal Ski offers seven nights’ half-board at the Club Hotel Le Viking in Morzine from £419 departing March 21
- Neilson offers seven nights at the self-catering La Foret apartments in Flaine from £285 departing February 28
- Thomson offers seven nights’ half-board at the Hotel Del Viale in Courmayeur from £345 departing March 8
- Inghams offers seven nights’ half-board at the four-star Hotel Prisank in Kranjska Gora from £289 departing March 7
Mystery Shopper prizes
Each month’s highest scoring travel agent gets the chance to drive a Porsche Boxster S courtesy of Elite Island Resorts. More at www.travelweekly.co.uk/elite
Mystery Shopper scoring system
- 60% Advice and product knowledge
- 12% Customer service
- 8% External/internal appearance
- 7% Welcome
- 7% Farewell
- 6% Staff presentation
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