|Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas, with John McMahon|
I have a question for you all. Are you in the transaction business or the service business?
Before you answer that question, let me tell you a story that has been repeated over and over in meetings I have sat in on with travel suppliers and travel agents. It usually happens in the question-and-answer portion of the meeting when the agent more often than not starts with the statement “I don’t like your website; it doesn’t encourage consumers to book with agents.”
When this happens I cringe—first, because it’s not a question, it’s a statement, and second, most suppliers can’t afford to cut off their consumers' direct business or they would soon be nonexistent. From this point on the conversation goes downhill because the mentality of the agent who thinks they compete with the Internet has lost the essence of the business they are in and generally doesn’t comprehend what really drives sales for them.
Transaction vs. Service
This is the point where I usually jump in and ask the question to the agent: “Are you in the transaction business or the service business?” A consumer who books online is looking to transact. They don’t want the services or recommendations of a travel professional. The days of telling the consumer that it’s the same price if you book with an agent are over. You need to be charging a service fee because that is the business you are in.
At Travel Agent magazine we will be focusing future articles on service excellence and how to differentiate yourself from the Internet, other travel agents, and consumers who don’t see the value in your service. Recently we held a roundtable discussion on this topic, which will be featured in an upcoming issue. Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas, was present and set the tone by saying that no longer can travel professionals do away with providing just efficient service—they must provide intuitive and anticipated service to better define themselves from the competition.
So stay tuned to learn how Travel Agent can help you help your client.