Simon Cooper, chief executive of On the Beach
For many customers who book ‘do it yourself’ holidays, what makes the experience less enjoyable is the lack of human contact, both while booking with an online travel agent and once in resort.
This is really evident in resort, where tour operators have teams of reps. Having someone on the ground to sort out any problems is one of the tour operator’s differentiators.
That’s why On the Beach has decided to introduce resort-based reps for holidaymakers in some of our most popular destinations including Spain, Greece and Turkey.
From April 1, all reps will wear branded T-shirts so they can be easily identified by customers to provide 24/7 support in resorts.
When I ran a ski tour operator business, we were able to command customer satisfaction scores of 99%.
Through my teams of reps, we could head off potential issues before they happened.
That way customers did not face big mobile phone bills from having to ring UK call centres, nor nurture negative feelings towards the company that would simmer away until the complaint was resolved.
Customers in 2012 expect holiday businesses to be on hand 24/7 and, quite frankly, do not really care whether you are a tour operator or a travel agent.
Customers think “you are a holiday company, I am on holiday, I have an issue, so sort out my problem”.
What they want to know is that having booked with a travel company, if something goes wrong, it will be handled quickly and effectively.
This is one of the reasons why we obtained an Atol licence and set up an Atol-approved trust to protect our customers whatever type of holiday they book.
It is also why we have decided to set up the in resort service in collaboration with good local partners.
Our customer satisfaction scores, which are a key indicator of a sustainable business, are strong compared with other OTAs but weak compared with operators.
This is one area where we feel we can differentiate ourselves from our online travel friends and create parity with the operators who we, in most cases, can beat on price.
The new service is free to customers. We will not be adding to the cost of the holiday and, as with traditional package holidays, this new service offers 24/7 support, optional welcome meetings, tours and excursion advice and bookings, and a local emergency phone number.
Ultimately, by offering in-resort representation to our customers, it gives us greater ownership of the customer experience and enables us to better control our reputation on the ground.
As with any major agency, repeat business is key to our ongoing success.
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