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  #91 (permalink)  
Old May 1st, 2010, 01:08 AM
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I didn't know travel agents still existed. In the age of the internet, what service do they provide?
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  #92 (permalink)  
Old May 1st, 2010, 08:45 AM
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I disagee with your point of view that you shouldn't "give me everyting including the kitchen sink on the first sale". I think you should be giving "me" your very best from day 1, and all the time.
Oh, I completely agree if your talking about service. Our staff gives the best they can all the time. But if your talking about upgrades, ammenities and so forth that is a different story.

With that pattern of thinking you should be very, very unsatisfied with every cruise line on the market today because none of them are giving you their best either from purchase 1. The very best is reserved for there loyal customers, the club member, the diamond member passenger and so on.

What would you do in an agency situation as outlined below and be honest, don't fudge your honest because it makes good reading.

Client A and B are both on the same ship and sailing.

Client A:
- Has been purchasing from your company for years
- They refer clients all the time
- They purchase upper end cabins 80% of the time
- This purchase their price was $1199.00 per person balcony cabin.
- They are fairly low maintance from the start of booking to end of travel.

Client B:
- First time using your company but is not a first time cruiser, has cruised many time and you find out they have used a different company for every cruise purchase they made.
- Makes a point of repeating wants the cheapest price possible
- Also makes a point of saying you service him well he will be a great client as he usually takes a cruise once a year.
- Doesn't purchase on the first visit
- Calls several times asking for price over a period of a month or so
- Stops in several times asking for more brochures as his friend told him about another cruise line he should look at.
- Finally books a cruise, books the least expensive inside cabin 7-day $599. per person.
- Calls several times between deposit and final payment asking if the price changed.
- Gets his documents and is unsatisfied because his cabin was not upgraded been reading online cruise line should upgrade repeat passengers, this is his second cruise on this cruise line (ship is full)
- Complains and wants to know what we will do for him since he is not upgraded, not it becomes our fault.

The Agency:
From a business stand point what do you do. All things being equal on the agency side with the service level. In other words the agent gave the same level of service to both clients, answered every question that came up, provided additional information on shore tours, passport information and so on. Everything was spot on as far as service level they could not have done more.

Client A, you made a fair amount with this client.

Client B, you earned a very small amount on his sale because they purchased off price, the customer wasted so much of your agents time the earnings off the sale was lost in labor costs. Your flipped upside down with client B and they haven't even sailed yet.

You have one coupon to hand out for a $25.00 shipboard credit. Who do you give it to and which client holds greater value to your business?

Keep in mind I'm not complaining about either customer, I'm just saying that is the senario that plays and as a business person, what do you do with the coupon and why?
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Old May 1st, 2010, 09:02 AM
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I didn't know travel agents still existed. In the age of the internet, what service do they provide?
That is an interesting statement.
When your looking on the Internet who do you think you are looking at? Most of the time your looking at travel companies just like mine who have a very large internet presence. In other words besides having a walk in store front business we also provide a service to those who like to look on there own. Ninety percent of the time your online travel purchase is through an agency of sometype.
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Old May 1st, 2010, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by tvlone View Post
That is an interesting statement.
When your looking on the Internet who do you think you are looking at? Most of the time your looking at travel companies just like mine who have a very large internet presence. In other words besides having a walk in store front business we also provide a service to those who like to look on there own. Ninety percent of the time your online travel purchase is through an agency of sometype.
I agree!!! People have such misconceptions... they'll post... I don't use a travel agent, I booked at Travelocity, Expedia, etc. (which I also personally don't recommend). If they aren't booking directly with a cruise line, they are booking with some form of travel agent.

And if they are booking directly with a cruise line, they are booking with an agent, but not a travel agent, an agent of the cruise line (who will always act in the best interests of the cruise line).
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Old May 1st, 2010, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by tvlone View Post
Oh, I completely agree if your talking about service. Our staff gives the best they can all the time. But if your talking about upgrades, ammenities and so forth that is a different story.

With that pattern of thinking you should be very, very unsatisfied with every cruise line on the market today because none of them are giving you their best either from purchase 1. The very best is reserved for there loyal customers, the club member, the diamond member passenger and so on.

What would you do in an agency situation as outlined below and be honest, don't fudge your honest because it makes good reading.

Client A and B are both on the same ship and sailing.

Client A:
- Has been purchasing from your company for years
- They refer clients all the time
- They purchase upper end cabins 80% of the time
- This purchase their price was $1199.00 per person balcony cabin.
- They are fairly low maintance from the start of booking to end of travel.

Client B:
- First time using your company but is not a first time cruiser, has cruised many time and you find out they have used a different company for every cruise purchase they made.
- Makes a point of repeating wants the cheapest price possible
- Also makes a point of saying you service him well he will be a great client as he usually takes a cruise once a year.
- Doesn't purchase on the first visit
- Calls several times asking for price over a period of a month or so
- Stops in several times asking for more brochures as his friend told him about another cruise line he should look at.
- Finally books a cruise, books the least expensive inside cabin 7-day $599. per person.
- Calls several times between deposit and final payment asking if the price changed.
- Gets his documents and is unsatisfied because his cabin was not upgraded been reading online cruise line should upgrade repeat passengers, this is his second cruise on this cruise line (ship is full)
- Complains and wants to know what we will do for him since he is not upgraded, not it becomes our fault.
........................................
I would use the commission from Client A to pay someone to throw Client B over the railing. that's why I'd be a BAD travel agent.

The first part of your post (when discussing the rewards the cruise line's give) is interesting, because aside from the past passenger perks and amenities you mentioned, I think often it's the first time cruiser on a line who gets the best cabin upgrades... ahead of the loyal customers. Of course, I have no statistical data to verify. It's just an observation from "working" 13 years on cruise web sites.

Now.. to the ClientA and Client B issue.
I'm not sure how you know that Client B has used a different agent every time they've cruised. But I'm betting that once that information is discovered, that customer is no longer receiving the same level of service as Client A.

ClientB's profile also seems like a bit of a contradictive composition... he wants brochures for a cruise line a friend told him about, yet saw online that he should get an uprade.
I could be wrong, but I think most online users these days don't want brochures, because all of that info is available online.

Although a real thorn in the side of a travel agent, and making their job even more difficult, because of the mis-information posted online. (That is something we work dilligently on watching at CruiseMates, and try to correct mis-information, where we can).

At any rate.. to answer your question. I would certainly give client A the discount coupon, as they are the loyal customer, important to your business.

But I still wouldn't charge either a service fee Both types of clients are a part of the industry I chose. And anyone in the hospitality industry has certainly experienced both types of clients.

Client B may never come back, and move on to another agency, or.... perhaps if serviced well, and "trained", could become a loyal customer. Knowing how much effort to invest in that possibility is, I imagine, a trick of running a successful travel agency.
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  #96 (permalink)  
Old May 1st, 2010, 12:28 PM
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Default What About Client C

Client C is friendly, comes in, is happy to give their name, knows what ship and sailing date they'd like, is experienced, and apparently is quite experienced, and will require very little service.

Curious... do they get the very best because they aren't going to take up any time or energy at all, other than doing the price check and completing the process?

I'm assuming those types may be considered "gravy", but curious how they fit in to the plan.
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  #97 (permalink)  
Old May 1st, 2010, 02:09 PM
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I think we have to remember one thing here...

People who use travel agents correctly do it because they have been educated on the value and service a travel agent provides. Bad customers are not bad people, they are just not informed.

My first cruises were as a crewmember, so I loved cruising long before I ever thought of paying for one.

Between cruise ships jobs I went into a travel agency (1994) and acted just like your worst nightmare customer. I asked a ton of questions, asked for brochures, asked for the cheapest cruise (I was not making any money at this time - but I really wanted to get back onto a ship).

Here is the thing - I did not know anything about travel agents. I truly did not realize I was being that customer from _____.

So, while I understand exactly what you agents are saying, and I FULLY agree about not wasting time on people who aren't going to buy, I just want to say this...

They know not what sins they are committing.

If they are like I was, they are just trying to get some information. Now, this was also before the age of the Internet so finding out how travel agents work was not as easy as it is now.

F'rinstance, I didnt know if I had to pay you a service fee. I also really didnt even know what cruise lines were out there, the average cost of a cruise, etc. I worked on a ship, but I never got involved with the retail side of a cruise.

Here is another fear I think a lot of people have of agents which drives them away from agent and directly to cruise line bookings.

They think an agent will steer them to the line that pays the highest commission, not the line that offfers the customer the best value.

Now, we know this isn't true. Most agents strive to satisfy the customer in hopes of future business. They have ethics, but I truly believe most first-time customers are suspicious of travel agents. There is a lot of money involved and they have no idea how much of it may be going to the travel agent.

It seems to me an agent needs to find out ASAP if they know what they are doing in coming to you. If they don't then I suggest having a primer booklet you can give them.

1. How travel agents work (describe who pays, service fees for air, but not for cruises, etc). Reassure them that you can be trusted.

2. Describe cruise basics. Types of cabins and relative costs, average prices for 3 to 14-day cruises, different kinds of cruise lines, where they sail from, passport requirements, etc.

3. Everything you can think of that you have to repeat to every first time cruiser.

Then you can hand them that and say "thank you for coming in, please read this and come back when you have a better idea of what you may want to book."

If that had happened to me it would have saved the agent I talked to 30 minutes.

Now - lets talk about the REAL nightmare customers, the ones who just want to pick your brain and never intend on booking with you. We see that here pretty often, even people who say...

"I go to [cruiseagentwebsite.com] and find the best bargains, and then I call the cruise line and book it myself"

Not only are those people being selfish in using an agents assets with no intention of ever using their services, they are also being dumb, because that does not save you any money.

If you are going to use a travel agent, it should be to get the best service first - and part of really good service is saving the customer money.

There are plenty of cruise agents who can discount certain cruises below the flat-rate pricing or at least match it. Everything they do for you on top of that is gravy.
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  #98 (permalink)  
Old May 1st, 2010, 05:29 PM
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We provide the same services as before. While the online agencies(which have travel agents working for them) did see a rise in simple bookings for years, travel agents are back on the rise and are experts at handling more complex bookings and some cruise lines only book through travel agents(and we do have the full support of all of the major cruise lines).
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  #99 (permalink)  
Old May 1st, 2010, 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by brad813 View Post
and some cruise lines only book through travel agents(and we do have the full support of all of the major cruise lines).
Brad... which cruise lines don't allow passengers to book direct?

I remember when Renaissance first allowed passengers to book directly with them, the travel agent community, almost as a whole, boycotted them, and had alot to do with them going under.

Now it's common practice, and all the agents say " we do have the full support of the cruise lines.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 11:31 AM
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I am pretty sure Oceania does not book direct.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 02:16 PM
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I was trying to post last night but internet went down. I was going to say a handful of luxury lines do not book direct.
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  #102 (permalink)  
Old May 2nd, 2010, 03:36 PM
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I was trying to post last night but internet went down. I was going to say a handful of luxury lines do not book direct.
btw.. I honestly did not know the answer when I asked the question. I just hadn't ever heard of anyone who insisted passengers book with travel agents anymore.

I did some surfing today, and it appears Azamara. Oceania, Regent, Silversea, and Seabourn all allow you to book directly. So, I'm not sure who I'm missing?????
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 03:48 PM
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Well, I do recall that there are 2 or 3 the last time I checked, though things do change rapidly in this business.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 07:19 PM
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Paul, those e-mail examples are humorous. I get them too. Obviously you have more stature than I, as I haven't received any complaints about a specific cruise yet. I believe most of them think I operate the parking facility at Port Liberty in New Jersey. I average three e-mails per week asking about "our" rates and if we have complementary shuttle service from the parking lot to the ship.

I have a regular cruise agent who has been my exclusive "go to" person for over 12 years. I absolutely adore her and she has always given me wonderful service, looking out for me and getting lower prices when they were found, onboard credits and perks, etc. It has never cost me more than the price of the cruise, so why not use an agent? Either she gets the commission or the cruise line pockets it if I use their in-house people. It is pretty simple to me.
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 12:42 PM
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This is a good thread -

Quote:
The first part of your post (when discussing the rewards the cruise line's give) is interesting, because aside from the past passenger perks and amenities you mentioned, I think often it's the first time cruiser on a line who gets the best cabin upgrades... ahead of the loyal customers. Of course, I have no statistical data to verify. It's just an observation from "working" 13 years on cruise web sites.
I dont have any statistical information either, but with 25 years owning an agency and seeing the documents pass through the office, most loyal guests are offered or given an upgrade many times over the first time passenger. Keep in mind, Im not talking about the specials we all have that say buy this and receive a cabin upgrade.

Quote:
Now.. to the ClientA and Client B issue.
I'm not sure how you know that Client B has used a different agent every time they've cruised. But I'm betting that once that information is discovered, that customer is no longer receiving the same level of service as Client A.

ClientB's profile also seems like a bit of a contradictive composition... he wants brochures for a cruise line a friend told him about, yet saw online that he should get an uprade.
I could be wrong, but I think most online users these days don't want brochures, because all of that info is available online.
It is very easy to find out how many times the customer used different agents or purchase online, it is by qualifying the client. There is an amusing thing that happens when a person who has no intention or little intention of purchasing from your business occurs as they all have the same traits. When you start to qualify them they become uncomfortable you can see it in there face and eyes a good salesperson will pick up on those traits and start to qualify a tad different. Plus, they love to talk about how they find the best deals online or direct, all you have to do is ask and 20 minutes later you know how they booked every vacation they ever went on they love to impress you with that information.

About Brochures Many online bookers still want the brochures, we receive requests all the time for a brochure. When you tell them you need to ask them a few questions before giving a brochure (qualifying questions) they become upset and walk out without giving their name.

Quote:
But I still wouldn't charge either a service fee Both types of clients are a part of the industry I chose. And anyone in the hospitality industry has certainly experienced both types of clients.
We do not charge service fees in our office for generic vacation planning.

Quote:
Client B may never come back, and move on to another agency, or.... perhaps if serviced well, and "trained", could become a loyal customer. Knowing how much effort to invest in that possibility is, I imagine, a trick of running a successful travel agency.
Absolutely, if your sales folks are good they know when to cut the client loose without making the client feel you just shut them down. Give you an example: We have a guy that came into our office and is the biggest shoppers ever in fact we dont even quote any of his vacations anymore. However this guy is one of our biggest forms of advertising as he refers people to us all the time.

Quote:
What About Client C

Client C is friendly, comes in, is happy to give their name, knows what ship and sailing date they'd like, is experienced, and apparently is quite experienced, and will require very little service.

Curious... do they get the very best because they aren't going to take up any time or energy at all, other than doing the price check and completing the process?

I'm assuming those types may be considered "gravy", but curious how they fit in to the plan.
Client A, B & C all receive the same level of service when they step foot in the office or phone us. Client A & C would continue to receive that same level of service we are known for. Client C would also receive any amenities benefits we would have same as we would with client A the only difference would be, we would first make sure all client As come first. You have to remember, you never fully know what type of Client C will be until completion of travel.

On the other hand Client B has to be dealt with in a different manor. Im not saying the level of service diminishes but things like time management with the client are adjusted to keep the agent working in an efficient manor otherwise there time is consumed on one person. Client B will drain the life out of the salesperson if they are not careful, this goes for any business not just travel.

A few years back, we had a client B type e-mail us from there place over thirty times in one day asking questions, who never purchased. So you do have to handle these types in a different manor otherwise you labor costs go through the roof.

Quote:
People who use travel agents correctly do it because they have been educated on the value and service a travel agent provides. Bad customers are not bad people, they are just not informed.
I pretty much agree with this statement, there are some however who are just plain bad customers, every business has them.

Quote:
F'rinstance, I didnt know if I had to pay you a service fee. I also really didnt even know what cruise lines were out there, the average cost of a cruise, etc.
I agree it is pretty stupid on any agents part not to explain what they do and how they work at the very start. That is where qualifying come in it is usually a part of that..

We do not charge any fees on the initial consultation and/or for simple vacation/bookings. Do we have fees? Absolutely but they are more on the level of a concierge fee for hire. If the customers is wanting a customized trip. Then you have to charge a labor fee for the planning, but that is a different ball game all together then talking about simple vacation.

Everyone needs to keep in mind not every vacation is as simple as what it seems. One couple may be very quick and easy to book, the next couples on the same ship and sailing may require all kinds of assistance.
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 05:28 PM
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TVlone...

I very much appreciate your participation in this thread; giving your obviously very professional input is terrific stuff for everyone who's read the thread. Thanks! Hope you "hang around" here lots and continue to post your helpul information.
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Old May 4th, 2010, 09:06 AM
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Thanks Kuki,

I appreciate the comments and thanks for letting me express some thoughts from the agent side. I was refered to this site by another agent about this thread.

Id like to take a moment and comment a bit more about the statement below concerning a Gravy Customer

Quote:
Client C is friendly, comes in, is happy to give their name, knows what ship and sailing date they'd like, is experienced, and apparently is quite experienced, and will require very little service.

Curious... do they get the very best because they aren't going to take up any time or energy at all, other than doing the price check and completing the process?

I'm assuming those types may be considered "gravy", but curious how they fit in to the plan
Please keep in mind Im referring below to working with a travel professional, a travel professional who is live and working directly with you face to face or over the phone. I'm not talking about someone or something behind an automated website that you never truly understand who they are and you are never in contact with them directly.

Kuki, sometimes in travel you do have the occasional gravy sale as refered to. However, in todays environment that may be a rarer occurance then you might think. When a sale occurs in a travel agency, the time between the commitment via deposit and the start of travel could be as little as 1-day to as much as 11-months out or more.

What is not being considered is the time between.

Events can occur that are out of the control of the agent. Many times the client doesnt normally think about it but a professional agent is behind the scenes tracking/working on your behalf to give them a good experience for that small commission they earned. You as a consumer may never touch your vacation after you made the deposit until the final payment is due other then thinking about it and talk about it. On the other hand your travel agent may have had to touch your vacation package again and again, labor costs.

Here is a few examples:
-Price reductions by the supplier (if only most where as simple as this one)
-Schedule changes by the supplier
-Governmental rule changes that impact your trip
-Departure time changes
-Jury duty, you book a trip and suddenly your called to jury duty
-Natural disasters like hurricanes or the volcano eruption
-Man-made disasters (the oil spill we see today)
-The event that occurred over the weekend in NYC still playing out.
-The boarder drug issue we current hear on the news between U.S. and Mexico causing alarm to travelers.
-Your health, yes right now you may be in good health but what happens if you become ill on your trip or before.
-Death what do you do if a spouse passes away on a trip? (This does happen)
-The list is endless

On a routine basis in our office along with hundreds of other agencies around the U.S. are working on behalf of you there client without them ever knowing you are looking out for there best interest.

In fact we run reports just to see who is traveling where to be sure what is occurring around the world is not impacting anyone of our clients vacations at the time, and if the potential is there we have to pull the file and start working on it or at the very least monitor it.

Example: late yesterday, they decided to shut down the airspace in Ireland again due to the volcano. Not knowing the impact, we had to run a report not only on everyone traveling to Ireland in the next day or two but everyone traveling to Europe as you never know how widespread the impact. Do we have people traveling to Europe today, yep! Does the client know right now we are monitoring the situation? Likely not, I'd bet they are not even thinking about it. That is just one example of behind the scenes.

Usually when you book with an automated type of business they will wait and wait and wait until the absolute last minute before they make any decisions for you and then usually nothing happens until you call them. That is a big difference between say a large online company and a travel professional who wants your business again and again.

A gravy sale as it was called can turn into a loser overnight because of an event that occurs which is completely out of the control of both the agent and client.

So please do not be so quick to think "any" sale is gravy simply because the customer knew what they wanted. It is only after completion of travel that any travel professional can reflect back and say that sale was gravy not before.
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Old May 7th, 2010, 02:03 PM
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Here is another example, of what you do not notice as a client that your travel agent does.

Tomorrow 5/8 a ship is docking late due to an unforseen issue.
Since many of our clients who book that ship drive to the pier and park there car for the week. Today, we spent the morning running a report of all our clients sailing on that ship tomorrow. Then the agents had to get on the phone and call each booking on record to notify them not to arrive at the pier before a certain time otherwise the pier authority is going to turn them away due to limited parking spaces at the dock. Once those guests returning get off the ship and leave the parking area will those sailing tomorrow be allowed into the parking area for there sailing.

Now that doesn't seem like much but it is time consuming which inturn has labor costs. Those labor costs come out of the commissions the travel agency earns.

So in one week, we have had to incur additional labor costs which come out of those rather small commissions to deal with two seporate issues for clients sailing on cruises this weekend. Again another reason why we do not consider any sale a gravy sale until the client completes there trip.
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Old May 7th, 2010, 03:22 PM
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TV... you present some excellent examples, and I agree there should be the caveat that it's not a "gravy booking" until it's over. "Ship happens" all the time.

Even when someone's back, if they had a problem they couldn't resolve onboard it sounds as if you are agency that would go to bat for your clients.

Let me ask.. with the situation of the delayed ship, do you think the cruise line calls all the people who booked with them directly, to make them aware... or are they left hanging?
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Old May 8th, 2010, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Even when someone's back, if they had a problem they couldn't resolve onboard it sounds as if you are agency that would go to bat for your clients.
Yes but my agency is not the only one, there are hundreds of agencies like mine in the U.S. that strive on good customer service. The key is knowing how to pick one. Once you have established a good relationship with your travel agency they understand your needs and wants, that is worth its weight in gold.


Quote:
Let me ask.. with the situation of the delayed ship, do you think the cruise line calls all the people who booked with them directly, to make them aware... or are they left hanging?
Those who book direct with a cruise line maybe. I say maybe only because the program is an automated system. Their system doesn't know who picks up on the other end if anyone.

If booked via an online agency or storefront agency the cruise line calls them, and inturn they must contact the clients they booked. Granted many of the large online agencies will us automated systems also.

The professional agents will phone direct until they get someone because they are smaller and more personable.

Keep in mind statics show, still less then 10-15% of cruise passengers book direct with the cruise lines today.

One thing for sure, you can be assured today at that pier it is going to be a mess for those who did not get a phone call, or did get the call and did not understand it. Those getting a call from a live person would have had an oppertunity to explain the situation and answering there questions.
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Old May 8th, 2010, 08:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by worthew8 View Post
"I think it should be obvious that the cruise lines see the trend, and are putting more and more efforts into making it easier for customers to book directly with them, and saving paying any commissions to anyone."

Thanks, Kuki. I'm glad to see you've witnessed the trend. Although you and I disagree on travel agents (I have used them and have been satisfied), times are changing. If one is self-sufficient, one can find a great deal and fend for themselves.

I guess it all depends on how much time you have. It also depends on how you deal with disappointments and expectations, as well as getting compensation. If one demands exemplary service, one should pay for that. If you can't afford the service, be prepared to take charge, do it on your own, and (depending on your charisma), accept the outcome.

No one wants a bad cruise, to each their own.

Sweet Sailing!
Peg,

Excellent comments. I am the type that actually enjoys planning, on my own, a cruise or vacation and consider it part of the vacation experience. My experience has been that planning my own vacations and booking direct, has saved me a lot of money over the years.

With great cruise web-sites, such as cruisemates, there is a such wealth of information available, that I doubt any Travel Agent could even come close to the knowledge that is available.

That said, I realize that there are some people who need to have someone else look after the details of a vacation and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. To each their own.

Debra
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Old May 9th, 2010, 12:05 PM
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There is a huge difference between many TA's. Some only act as transactional agents. The client calls with what they want, and the TA processes the payment and takes the booking. Here are some facts though. We conducted a test of the major Online Transactional Agents and several of those who "compete" for your business during the recent shut down of major airports in Europe after the eruption and the "Assistance" available ranged from non-existent to dismal.

The other type of TA is a travel advisor. They may have a client who has heard or read on some website about a certain supplier's product. However the travel advisor TA will conduct a voire dire of this potential client to match the client with the right product. They will make recommendations on shore excursions, dining options both on an off the ship, pre and post hotel stays and more. They will do work far beyond the commission paid by a supplier. These travel advisors like any other consultant should be paid for their work by the client.

The traditional travel model back in the 1930's was exactly this. It was suppliers that started rewarding travel advisors a commission for putting their client's on THEIR product.

As far as loyalty, it just does not happen as often as you may think. The cruise lines are seeing passengers day in and day out. They know how these clients booked and only 20% will book their second cruise with the same agent who booked their first cruise. The transactional agents frankly suck at follow-up and client retention and deal mainly in volume.

When someone asks me what do I offer than they cannot get on their own, I always ask if they have a rolodex of cruise line executives, hotel general managers, independent excursion contractors who want to know when a VIP client will be on a ship, at a hotel or in a destination. Like many lawyers and financial planners, more and more travel agents are becoming specialized and will only sell a smaller range of products (cruiselines, all inclusive hotels, etc.) They are in no way trying to be all things to all people.

Will everyone pay for this service? No, but if everyone did, we could not provide the level of service we do. We rather enjoy picking up the phone knowing the person calling is someone we want to talk to. We operate with the velvet rope principle and not everyone gets to come past it.

Arrogant? Maybe, but we are excellent at what we do and we charge a premium for it. I can tell you the referrals we get are people who are suffering from information overload. There is a lot of information available on the web, but there is not enough knowledge to differentiate between what best fits a particular client.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 09:31 AM
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Quote:
Peg,

Excellent comments. I am the type that actually enjoys planning, on my own, a cruise or vacation and consider it part of the vacation experience. My experience has been that planning my own vacations and booking direct, has saved me a lot of money over the years.

With great cruise web-sites, such as cruisemates, there is a such wealth of information available, that I doubt any Travel Agent could even come close to the knowledge that is available.

That said, I realize that there are some people who need to have someone else look after the details of a vacation and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. To each their own.

Debra
Hi Debra,

You are absolutly correct there is a ton of information out on the internet, some great, some good and some not so good. The key is finding out which is the good. In my office we love a well informed client who walks in our door.

Please keep in mind when I talk about a professional agent I'm talking about someone who is dedicated to the industry, someone who works 40 + hours a week working in travel. Their is a influx of people in this industry who should not be in it, but that goes for any industry.

What I think everyone is missing here is a professional travel agent works in travel daily, same as Debra does as a nurse. I can put a bandaide on myself and place a splint on my broken leg but is that a wise decision? Not really, even though I can do it, if I go to a professional with proper treatment managing the pain and suffering would result in less healing time, generally speaking. That is what a professional agent does for you. In the end the job is about customer service and management, its not about you knowing the shade of red in that Carnival cabin over them or that John Herold is moving to a different Carnival ship that type of thing is not the important part of a travel agents job.

What is important to the travel agent to get the word to there clients asap which some of you may not even be aware of is that last week some cruise lines are starting to put back on the fuel supplements, some airlines increased there fares for it also. That is important, that is managing your travel for you.

Quote:
My experience has been that planning my own vacations and booking direct, has saved me a lot of money over the years.
Saving money by booking direct has to be one of the biggest misconceptions in this industry. If your booking a cruise or a vacation package the price is the same the only difference here is the cruise line or other supplier keeps the commission they would have paid the travel agent, you would have been working with.

What happens is the same that happens in my agency all the time. A person will call and ask what the price is of xyz. A price is given to the person and then time goes by, maybe a day goes by or it could be two-three weeks go by as the person is still deciding. One night the Person is searching the internet and sees the price is now lower and makes a decision without ever calling back the travel agent. Logical reaction is that travel agents price was higher. However, all things equal the travel agent would have had the same price they just where not called back.

The biggest thing consumers do not understand about the travel industry is inventory control and that is one of the biggest problems for travel agents. Travel agents do not set price the suppliers set the price.
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Old May 11th, 2010, 07:35 PM
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Although I should not assume what Debra is saying, it may be possible that not all travel agents have the consumers best interest at heart.

Speaking for myself, I wonder how many fees, commissions, etc., I would have to pay in order to find the 'right' agent.

Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt there are many out there who realize word of mouth is the best way to get business. In the same breath, there are also many who don't give a ship.

I'm not putting down TA's, they have helped me many ways in the past, and have saved me money. But, there are times I know what I want, know how to get it, and know how to read agreements (such as fuel supplements). There are other times when I want a complicated and/or detailed vacation and a TA is the only way to go.

Being informed and knowing how to get information, is really what it's all about. Most people, especially first cruisers, will need the help of a TA and should use their service. But in the same breath, there are a couple of people out there who can understand passenger contracts, the risks of booking their own air, and the policies of the line they are booking with.

TA's are a valuable tool, neither I nor (I think) Debra are stating they're not.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
I'm not putting down TA's, they have helped me many ways in the past, and have saved me money. But, there are times I know what I want, know how to get it, and know how to read agreements (such as fuel supplements).
First let me say, I think everyone chatting about this is making some good points.

But let me give you somethings to ponder.

In my agency we receive many calls a week that start out like this.

Hi, I just have a simple question.

When you start to qualify the person you find they have already booked there cruise or airline ticket or hotels or whatever else online and they have questions about there online purchase after the fact.

A few weeks ago a gentleman walked in our store front office and carried in his carry-on bags and his suit case to ask us if the airline would accept it.

Now everyone was busy and this gentleman makes a seen with all this luggage. He left in a huff when I had to tell him to take it where he purchased the travel from, and ask them.

Was his question a simple one? Absolutely, was it poor customer service, many would say yes because he may decide to purchase from us the next time. That may be so, but the fact is he did not make this purchase from us, he never was a client. He made a purchase somewhere else, he did not want to wait online or on the phone but he required assistance on his online purchase. That is like buying a new Chevy that is still under warranty and pulling up to a Ford dealership and demand they fix it because its under a Chevy warranty.

Monday this week a person walked in and wanted to buy trip insurance for his cruise he purchased online. He had no idea what the total cost was, he thinks it was about this price, didn't know what ship he was sailing, he did know the date though. While we would have gladly sold him insurance we couldn't because he did not provide us with enough information for him to even make an insurance purchase, so again left in a huff.

I believe many people who purchase online believe a travel agency is similar to a tourist board to provide free information.

I'm just wondering something; if everyone is so comfortable and knowledgeable about there online purchases why does the average agency receive these calls & walk-in time and time again after someone makes an online purchase. And why are these online boards full of people asking questions just about cruising?

Let's say you know absolutely everything there is to know about your trip, you've done all the research online and all you need to do is book it. The price will be the same no matter where the purchase is made online/direct or travel agency.

Things to consider:

- If you book direct the cruise line basically has there best interest at stake, not yours don't they when push comes to shove.

- If you book through one of the large online company's will they care about you in the end?

- If you book though a local agency, would there staff be more receptive to your needs? Would they be a phone call away instead of waiting online for however long? Could you walk into there office any time during office hours? Would they give you a simple brochure you might need? Would you have a local advocate in the event something went wrong on your trip?

Why would you not book it at your local travel agency?

Also consider this, by not booking or using any local business not just travel agency you are slowly losing your community support system. Those are businesses who support your local kids in soccer programs, little league baseball teams, high school football programs and so much more. To give you an idea we have been in business for 25 years. 15 years ago our agency used to support 8 different local high school yearly sports programs within a 30 mile radius with full page ads for the year. We would also support little league and soccer programs. This year we support 1.

About two years ago one of the high school principles came into the office wanting the yearly ad from us for the sports program. As the conversation went on he started telling me about a retirement teacher trip they just got back from. I then asked him where they booked it. Oh we did it direct he said, I asked why they did not give us a chance at the booking, mind you I didn't ask for the booking just the oppertunity to provide a proposal. I mean we supported this school for 22 years. Well we just thought we could get a better deal he said. I just closed our checkbook and told him to go to that supplier for that ad. Funny I didn't see any cruise line ads in there last year, guess it didn't work out for him.
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Old August 21st, 2012, 01:44 AM
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I just recently booked my next cruise with NCL for Jan of next year. The company we used back in 2006 to book our Mexico Cruise did so well that I decided to go with them again. Unfortunately, the first agent I got talked to me for about 20 minutes but I would have booked through her except I tried 3 times to reach her and she was never available. So, when I called the TA again, I went with the next person that answered, told them why I was not going with her co-worker and was going to stay with her. She not only got me a great deal on our next cruise, she even called NCL for me to get me a disabled room right on the part of the ship I wanted to be located and it was bigger than others for that style and upgraded a category even. I was really pleased. I don't know if they charge a fee but it couldn't be too much and I think it was well worth all her knowledge and experience. It's called paying for the experience, knowledge and information that TA can have that most people don't that is worth paying for it. Now I just have to fight through finding airfare, ugh. I hate doing that because it to me is a pain and a lot to do to get the best scenario and price all around. Honestly, $20.00-35.00 is reasonable for a fee. I agree with Paul M. on that is just plain cruel to pump the TA's and get the info and then go somewhere else.
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