Mystery Shopper

Mystery Shopper

Mystery Shopper has been landed with the task of planning a hen weekend abroad for a group of 10 women. They are planning a trip in May 2000 and are considering a three or four-night break at a spa resort. Money was no object so where better to ask for advice than in the affluent district of Chelsea in London. Unfortunately, service was lacklustre in the extreme. Only Abercrombie and Kent came up with anything.

*****

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

 

Abercrombie & Kent Travel, Sloane Square House, London

*** Winner

I was greeted by a receptionist who took down details of my enquiry and called a colleague from the travel agency section.

Without hesitating, she suggested the Domaine du Royal Club Evian, a resort in the French town of Evian. She picked out the Elegant Resorts brochure, assuming my request was about a corporate trip. When I said it was a hen weekend she added it was jolly expensive. I said I did not know what our price range was as yet but said the £555 quoted for next May for a three-night package did not look too outrageous. She agreed, but said she would see what other options there were and rifled through a filing cabinet to find the Spas Worldwide brochure from the agents Erna Low.

In fact, it was the perfect brochure for my needs as it gave a wide choice of spas around the world and covered every price range. The consultant apparently had only two copies of it, but let me take the out-of-date one.

She did not encourage me to return to book, but the assured service would have encouraged me to come back.

* Product knowledge

* Staff attitude

* Sales technique

Steamond Travel, 23 Eccleston Street, London

**
The agency was very small, but looked smart. Only brochure copies were on display.

There were three consultants on duty. The consultant picked up on the hen weekend bit and asked if I would consider a short break in Paris by Eurostar.

She said this would cost around £160. I repeated the original request, and she suggested I look at the Club Med brochure as she knew that one of the properties in Spain offered all the health treatments.

She picked out the Don Miguel, near Marbella, and added this was probably not exactly what we were looking for, but if we did book it, she could offer a 5% discount for 10 people. She said she look out for other options and to call again next week.

* Agency appearance

* Staff attitude

Diplomat Travel, 12 Eccleston Street, London

**

There were five consultants on duty in this long, narrow agency which was nicely decorated and had a wide choice of brochures on the racks.

There were no other customers so I was served immediately. The consultant obviously misunderstood what I wanted and started looking at Highlife Breaks and Superbreak brochures, which only featured UK holidays.

She commented that these operators did not have pampering holidays as such.

I repeated we were thinking about going to Europe for the hen weekend, and she said she had no ideas about where we should go.

She added that the company only offered "normal" holidays. A very lacklustre display.

* Agency appearance

* Brochure racking

Jet Set Travel, 56 Ebury Street, London

No stars awarded

This small, extremely untidy agency initially looked as if it sold only tours around London, but there were piles of brochures lying around which suggested the agency sold a wide range of holidays abroad as well.

I checked with the consultant and was abruptly told to sit down and wait until he had finished with his terminal.

On hearing my enquiry, he assured me it was far too early to think about booking anything for next May, as nobody would quote fares this far out.

He said his colleague would be the best person to ask about places we could go for health and beauty treatments.

He asked how much we were willing to spend - then told me to call back in a month's time. It was all very odd.

Top Tips for Agents

Tip 1: Always listen carefully to a customer's request. It is very frustrating when an agent suggests a holiday that is totally inappropriate.

Tip 2: Never ever say you have no idea how to help a customer - it looks very unprofessional. If you are stuck for holiday ideas, always check with a colleague who may be able to help you.

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