Not Just Travel homeworker David Walker calls for improvements on service levels and timeframes
There has been much talk of late regarding the working relationships between suppliers and agents – but is anything being done to improve service levels?
I, like many of my peers, are getting more and more frustrated with our wonderful suppliers. They are wonderful because without them there are many bookings we simply would not be able to create, but how many more bookings could we get over the line if service levels and timeframes were improved?
I am doing more online bookings right now because I have complete control of every element when doing so
I often wait days for a quote – sometimes more than a week – before the even longer wait to change one simple element. I am doing more online bookings right now because I have complete control of every element when doing so. With some suppliers you can call them multiple times, tell them exactly what you want, and you still don’t get what you’ve asked for!
When I do call suppliers, I much prefer to wait on hold, otherwise you get lost in the system and risk not hearing back. This is even the case with some suppliers I have completed countless bookings with in the past, as they just don’t have the capacity to fulfil so many quotes.
Expanding too soon
All this got me thinking: have suppliers expanded their destination ranges and product portfolios too soon?
Expansion is great in the long run; however, the staffing changes required to start new divisions result in longer wait times for quotes and amendments, as the staff don’t seem to be getting recruited until the new division is fully up and running.
Expansion is great in the long run; however, the staffing changes required to start new divisions result in longer wait times for quotes and amendments
Prior to the pandemic, I worked with a supplier which only did long-haul for certain destinations and they were always on the ball, turning quotes around super-fast while I waited on the phone. They provided a bang-on service for us agents. However, things have changed since they expanded, and I now find details are taken before being sent to the “correct department”, leaving me to have to sit and patiently await my quote.
When it comes to suppliers with cruise divisions, staffed by cruise experts, we don’t tend to call them just for the cruise elements of a booking (we’d call the cruise line direct). These cruise specialists might be able to tell us how many restaurants are on board and what gratuities are included, but they’re not experts when it comes to flight routeings, hotels, pre and post-tours, car hire or arranging a game of golf for our clients. I don’t remember the last time I called up asking for help selecting a cruise for a client; instead I call to build an exciting package around it. Typically a supplier’s regular team would be the experts in this field, but they can’t help as it involves a cruise!
I know everyone is very busy right now, but things have simply got to improve or else we risk losing customers
Finally, once you do eventually make a booking, there are often so many mistakes in the paperwork, incorrect information on documents and schedule changes that we are not told about (this could be down to the airline not informing them), but thankfully we have airline PNR numbers to check flight details. I know everyone is very busy right now, but things have simply got to improve or else we risk losing customers. I really don’t recall dealings with suppliers being this tiresome pre-pandemic.
Suppliers need to be flexible
When we get close to making a booking with a supplier, we must adhere to their desired deposit and cancellation terms and conditions. Yet when the client can easily go on to either the hotel website or a website offering packages and see that the hotel can be booked without need for a deposit on a refundable rate until the day before check-in, it’s a tough act to follow.
I do understand the risks involved from the client’s perspective in self-packaging, but if they cancel in accordance with suppliers’ terms and conditions, it sometimes doesn’t make sense to use an agent! Come on, suppliers – where’s your flexibility?