Finding a Happy Medium

The Internet is not going away, folks, no matter how many volcanic ash clouds or cruise ship malfunctions send travelers back your way.

Consumers have grown accustomed to the impersonal service of the Net for tedious tasks, and in general are happy to limit the amount of personal interaction they have to endure in their daily lives. (On a side note, I have done the same with texting, to the point that I am consistently going way over my free text allowance and paying up to $60 per month in additional fees, while my free phone minutes sit unused).

A new American Express survey finds that the majority (55 percent) of more than 1,000 business travelers surveyed in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Australia, preferred to book their travel online, while almost half (46 percent) of travelers said they are more likely to turn to an agent for help when traveling.

And this is the marketing ploy of online travel agents. “Come book with us, and if anything goes wrong, call us.” What happens when an unhappy traveler actually calls that number is anybody’s guess. Usually when something goes wrong on a trip, it affects anywhere from dozens to hundreds to thousands of people — many of whom are trying to call that same backup number.

For home-based travel agents, you may want to flip that strategy around. Emphasize that you offer personal, one-on-one customized service for your clients, but for times when they don’t really need to take up your time and theirs, make sure that your website is equipped to take care of simpler tasks or at least offer simple-to-follow guidelines for clients to find remedies to the most common complaints. Spending a little up-front time with you as their travel agent in person or on the phone can pay off when they really need you.

Make sure your clients get the message: “You may not always need me, but isn’t it good to know I’m around?”
 

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