Mystery Shopper

Mystery Shopper

Mystery Shopper was in Kilmarnock, Scotland this week in search of advice on a planned trip to Hungary this autumn. She and her partner wanted an off-season break in Budapest. None of the agents showed any knowledge of the destination, but the Thomas Cook consultant shone in what was otherwise a mediocre group.

*****

Each week, Mystery Shopper will be calling on agents in different areas. Stars are awarded to agents which score for:

* Agency appearance

* Product knowledge

* Staff attitude

* Brochure racking

* Sales technique

The top-scoring agency each week receives a Travel Weekly certificate of commendation

Please note that no additional information will be given about Mystery Shopper's visits

Thomas Cook, 103 King Street, Kilmarnock

**** Winner

There were two consultants on duty in this pleasant looking agency with well stocked brochure racks. We were served immediately.

The consultant picked out Thomas Cook City Breaks brochure and also Cresta. She offered to check to see if it was cheaper to book a package or book travel and accommodation separately. She said it would be worth checking as there was no transfer included in the package price which would normally make a difference to the price.

She advised us to make the booking two to three weeks before the departure date as the hotel rooms featured by the short-break operators were usually released back to the hotel if they had not been sold by then, and that made it harder to check availability.

This consultant was friendly and polite and interested in helping us, but did not really encourage us to return when we were ready to make a booking, so she failed to get a star for sales technique. She was knowledgeable about the city-breaks market, but had no first-hand knowledge about the destination itself.

* Agency appearance

* Product knowledge

* Staff attitude

* Brochure racking

Lunn Poly, 61 King Street, Kilmarnock

**

There were four consultants on duty in this bright looking agency where brochure supplies looked very limited.

I was served immediately by a consultant who immediately picked out Thomson and Crystal brochures.

She opened them at the relevant pages and flicked through the options in the city. She talked in general terms but did not appear to have product knowledge of the city break market. She said both operators were good so it was simply a case of choosing which hotel appealed to us.

She offered to check out flight prices and accommodation rates separately and compare them against the price of a package. A very friendly consultant who gave us a cheery thanks for calling in as we left.

* Agency appearance

* Staff attitude

King World Travel, 1a Nelson Street, Kilmarnock

*

There were four consultants on duty in this shop which had a very uninspiring shop. There was a wide selection of brochures but the display was untidy and it was hard to see any front covers.

The layout of the agency was also crowded so we had to squeeze past chairs to get to racks. I was served by a consultant who seemed bemused by the request but picked up a Travelscene brochure initially before opting for the Cresta and Osprey brochures.

She said accommodation may be cheaper if booked in the destination, so suggested we book a couple of nights in advance and book the rest when we were there.

She gave us her card and said to call if we needed any further help.

* Staff attitude

Going Places, 23/25 King Street, Kilmarnock

*

Four consultants were on duty in this clean, neat looking agency. The brochure supplies were running low.

I was served immediately by a consultant who appeared surprised at the request. She gave us the Going Places overbranded brochure and pointed out the relevant pages. She also gave us the Cresta Cities brochure. She asked why we were interested in Budapest with what seemed genuine astonishment that anyone would consider the destination!

I asked about the difference between the package rate and an independent holiday where flights and accommodation were booked separately. She said she did not know flight or hotel prices and did not offer to check them. It was a lethargic performance.

* Agency appearance

Top Tips for Agents

Tip 1: When it comes to displaying brochures, why not follow the example set by book retailers and display as many brochure covers as possible? Rows and rows of half-obscured front covers do not look appealing.

Tip 2: When selling city breaks, it is helpful to point out that transfers are not usually included and to highlight operators which do include them in the package price.

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