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02 Sep 2016
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Comment: Good customer service starts off with a smile

I recently returned from a fabulous week’s summer break in Italy. The holiday was great – but it only became so after I intervened following a rocky start due to poor customer service.

Sharon Munro Opinion 2016

The staff in our hotel seemed totally unbothered about the service (or lack of) that they offered. There were no smiles; no “hellos”; no morning greetings. And it got me thinking as I pondered this week’s TTG column, just how crucial customer service really is.

Being in the business of selling holidays, I know what a big difference exceptional customer service can make. I also know that if you’re not happy with something, you should say so. Which I did (but more of that later).

Customer service has to be consistent across the board. Irrespective of whether or not you are a small hotelier, an independent travel agent or a large travel group, the basic principles are the same – and they will make a real difference to your customer’s holiday, as well as whether you remain their first port of call when that same customer wants to book their next break.

Speaking to an agent in-store, on the telephone or via email are all obvious touch points. But social media is also now the first of port of call for many clients. If a customer has a problem, it’s likely to be their audience on Twitter or Facebook they tell first.

With this is mind, good community management is key. Having a team of travel specialists responding to customer queries will enhance your online reputation and deliver better consumer engagement and satisfaction. Taking this approach will bring greater transparency and ultimately build more trust and better relationships long-term.

And don’t forget about aftercare – keeping in touch with your customer even after they have booked their break remains just as big an issue in the travel sector. The sale might have already been made but it is vital for any travel business to have structures in place that follow up with the customers, to ensure that they receive the service and experience they paid for.

As for me back in Italy, rather than turning to social media to air my frustrations, I tried the old-fashioned approach of speaking to the manager. I explained how disappointed I was with the lack of engagement and service I had received from staff, and the next day the atmosphere in the hotel was completely different.

The overall ambiance transformed overnight and it made a difference to other guests too, which shows that it really is never too late to turn things around. My holiday started off on a real sour note but thanks to the manager’s intervention, it became an unforgettable one. I will definitely be returning one day – as I imagine, will many of the other guests. And all because of a few smiles and hellos.

 

Sharon Munro is chief executive of Barrhead Travel

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