While onboard Celebrity Eclipse this weekend for The Travel Network Group conference, I was privileged to witness two of the cruise line’s top concierges be awarded the prestigious Clefs d’Or, so joining an elite international network of those who go above and beyond to make hotel guests happy every day.
It was a fitting diversion during a conference that had the idea of world-class service at its heart. But while it’s relatively easy to imagine what world-class service looks like for a hotel concierge, it’s harder in the context of a travel retail or tour operator.
The Travel Network Group (TTNG) itself has been hard at work to improve its own customer satisfaction, having joined the Institute of Customer Service 18 months ago.
By closely following the ICS programme, the consortium has been able to improve metrics ranging from product reliability and the reputation of the organisation, to response time to complaints, transparency of costs and helpfulness of staff. This has seen the group increase its average service score by members to 80% this year – qualifying it for the first time to claim its service is “world class”.
Delivering extraordinary customer service is second nature to good travel agents, yet what TTNG’s rigorous approach demonstrates is that, by clearly defining and measuring what excellence in customer service comprises, a business is much more able to improve.
Agents might not have the resources to undertake an ICS programme (though if they did, they could be rewarded: staff in TTNG’s Worldchoice store in Chesterfield undertook the ICS training and were named Top Travel Agency in the North East at the TTG Top 50).
But by taking small steps such as measuring customer perception of your brand, or how easy they find you to do business with, or how much they like the holidays they buy from you, agents have a firmer grasp on exactly what their customers think about their service – which seems the vital factor in working towards being truly world class.