We are new TA's to the Bargain Finder. We usually give nice gifts and travel books to our clients when they book with us. With discounts given through the bargain finder we are unable to do this for those clients. Do you think they still expect a bon voyage gift when they get a discounted cruise? Just feels strange, but the money isn't there when given in discounts. Hate to think they get on a cruise and other people get something from their TA and they don't.
Diana, that is a very good question to ask. You don't want to loose a potential good customer just because they didn't receive a bottle of wine on board ship. Why not adopt a policy of being upfront with your clients when you go over their Cruise Doc's Boarding Package? "Due to the substantial overall cruise savings this agency has been able to offer you, it is not our practice to send a bottle of wine to your cabin upon embarkation." Or something of that nature.
We were once on a group cruise that I had organized and my American Express TA was even traveling with us. She asked everyone what kind of wine they liked at a pre-cruise party we had, so I knew she was planning to send it to the cabins. Well, it never showed up nor was it delievered to the dining room tables. We had different dining seatings and obviously this was a very delicate subject. When I saw her during the cruise, she brought up the fact that Princess never received Their "check" for the wine. She actually obtained a copy of the check from her office while onboard, presented it to the proper staff member and after numerous confrontations with the staff, the Head Maitre' de on the very last night of the cruise approached our table and asked if we wanted the wine served! We were a party with 7 adults (4 cabins) and there was no way we could consume all that wine in one seating and diner was over. We at least knew it was not her ommission but the cruise lines that we hadn't received the gift. Another nice gift which you may be able to provide more reasonably is a photo album or frame. This would even compliment those who do not drink alchol. Just my opinion.
I was also thinking of some type of statement. Thank you for your suggestions. Whether to make the statement when we e-mail them the quote or after. Just afraid I will come across tacky. To tell you the truth it just feels strange not to do anything, but the discounts given through bargain finders does not leave the agent much to work with. We basically are trying to get out there so people can use us one time and hopefully like our service and us that we won't have to discount so drastically next time and can give the bon voyage gifts. Thanks again for your suggestion. We feel that the extra articles and customer service details we can give them can set us apart also.
If you posted on Bargain Finder and booked the cruise would you still expect a
bon voyage gift? I would you be offended if I told you that in lieu of a bon voyage gift you are able to offer you the following cruise quote.
Thanks for your input
This may only be my opinion, but I'd bet there are many who think like me (well about cruise pricing anyway<G>)
The best price along with the best service are what would be most important... not the bottle of wine, or fruit basket.
- best price, best service (i.e. returning phone calls, answering questions correctly, etc), assistance with upgrades, and assistance if problems develop would be much higher on most people's priority lists than bon voyage gifts.
Everyone promises great service and follow up.. not near as many deliver it.
The Internet generally, and CruiseMates Bargain Finder, specifically.. give cruisers many new avenues for shopping for their cruise. Not only that, but if they are using the "net" and researching, they are likely more savy customer's as well.
This type of customer may be much easier to book as well, and therefore less costs in time spent, and hard costs such as repeat phone calls etc.
Maybe other TAs could share their experiences, and tell us if they actually save some money by booking Internet cruisers. I'd guess they'd have to, but willing to listen.
My usual travel agent gives me a bottle of wine. On the other hand, she has become a good friend over the years and actually picks her clients. She won't deal with hard to please ones. We frequently sail together so it's just all part of the ambiance. I have booked with agents who give the discount in lieu of the wine. As a client, I'm absolutely fine with that.
I've used our TA for many Air trips aside from our recent cruise and have never expected or even thought of a gift.
We did get a surprise champagne bottle from her as a going away present in our cabin but I'm not expecting as a regular item.
Our TA has stood by us and filled out numerous forms when we had to cancel a trip one time and generally finds us good values and makes suggestions that benefit us.
I go to her because of her service and talents not because I might get a gift.
Diana, I to am a TA. At the risk of offending you and other "Looking for a bargin" readers, here is what I have found. 70% to 80% of those posting in I want a bargin are asking, no demanding a bargin. To them a bargin is cutting your commision to almost zero. They are not looking for service or knowledge just bargin basement priceing. Example, read thru the postings and see how many want the cheapest inside room. I think a lot of them are just fishing as I have answered many of them with some VERY good discounts to the point my commision is only 5% and I don't even get an answere or if I get an answere they want an upgrade (which sometimes I can do), shipboard credits or some other amenity. Are you going to make a life long client out of someone posting there? Not likely unless you want to work for nothing. I'm sorry to be so negative about this, when it first started I thought "great another tool to find clients" but after time and numerous replies to there requests I became somewhat bitter and now only read the posts for entertainment value. Good loyal clients are hard to find and you won't get them here.
Cruise: I couldn't agree with you more. We took a big step in my business this year. Discount operators have kept the rates low for many years. We decided to offer a premium service at a rate three times more than our competitors. Because we are one of the largest operators in our area a # of other companies got on board. We are 1/2 way through the busy season. Glad to report that not only are our clients completely satisfied but also we are making a little more money has well. Guess what we are doing with the extra money. Upgrading to serve our future customers better. The moral of this story you get what you pay for. Cheers.
May the wind be at your back and the sun always shinning
Now, thanks to cruiseguy and DaveB, I think we have an interesting topic to discuss.
I'd like to think that MOST people realize that when it comes to searching for cruise pricing the cheapest doesn't equate to the best.
But, even agents have to admit, it's infuriating to people to get on a ship, and find people who have paid 100s of dollars less in the cabin right next door. This happens way too often, and is VERY problematic for the cruise industry, I think.
Because different agencies get different rates of commission or perks and points which affect rates, from different cruise lines, any hopes of a level playing field are remote.
No passenger wants to think of themselves as "dumber than the next guy" so the next time they're planning on a cruise, they set off to SHOP price.
There's no question good service comes with a price, and I believe people are happy to pay that price IF it's within reason. The question, I would think, is what's a reasonable price for good service.
I've personally encountered situations where the agents say they charge a bit more, but provide great service, and that hasn't proven to be the case. Those situations also affect people's confidence in being able to trust that "pitch".
I'd love to hear from more TAs on these topics, as well as from more shoppers, as to why they think price should be THE determining factor in where they book.
Kuki, Diana, Dave B. et al ==>
As a newly retired vacationer, I use the Internet to find value for my travel dollar. And I'm sure there are all sorts of variations on what "value" means. For example, a number of years ago, I was in a line at an Orlando hotel. The man ahead of me (with his wife and 3 children) was arguing that he didn't order a suite, he insisted on a single room with space for cots...for a week at Disney World. I told him and the clerk that I would be more than happy to trade my single room for his suite. The extra bedroom gave my young son a place to crash while my wife and I could enjoy the other room and kitchenette. The complainer added significant value to our vacation. I've often thought that after the 3rd or 4th day, that family of 5 must have been "enjoying" Disney World in their single room. Value obviously means different things to different people.
As to cruising, my wife and I recently came back from a Princess cruise to Alaska that included both pre- and post-cruise stops. After some research, I negotiated the trip on the 'net, accepting the recommendations of an acommodating discount TA. The Princess rep met us outside of customs and ushered into a stretch limo for the trip to our hotel. For the next 12 days, anytime we even thought that we might need something, a Princess rep was there to provide it. Even the weather was perfect.
The trip was magical...but can never be duplicated. Still, I went back to that TA again asking recommendations for a cruise to Hawaii. We got an excellent value for our next cruise. The thought of gifts has never entered the picture.
Some people, such as my Orlando friend, see value as the cheapest room on a cattle boat. My view is a bit different. To me, the real value is the TA who can *serve* all these interests equally...emphasis on 'serve.
Hear, hear, Jim. That's what I was talking about; value to most people is a perceived reality of the service you are receiving if that comes along with a Great Price so be it. I have used different TA's for my cruises. The reason being is that my regular travel agent some times can't get the boat I want or the time I'm free to travel. Why? Not a level playing field I suspect. So on some cases it's not your favourite TA's fault. I also shop the Internet. This way I know approximately what the price should be. Then I always make the first phone call or e-mail to my regular TA. Has I value his advice and service for my other travel needs. Gift's never enter the picture with me either. I don't get Champaign and flowers waiting for me on the plane. lol
May the wind be at your back and the sun always shinning
Good point, Dave! It always pays to have several sources -- also to know where and how to find others when and if needed.
Kuki asked to hear from shoppers who believe the price should be THE determining factor. Price can be the value measure if, for example, you want a specific category of room on a specific ship for a specific cruise on a speciffic date. In such a case, all the TA does is write a ticket.
IMHO, I believe that travelers who use this technique are missing out on too many possibilities. My wife and I love to travel -- but we can't afford to experiment. Mistakes are too costly. So we use a TA to find us maximum luxury at the minimum price. After I find all that I can about the available options, I'll present some negotiable guidelines to a TA. For example, "help us find a gourmet cruise to Hawaii in the spring of 2002...with a great discount atached" Then we begin exchanging information with a TA.
In only one case has this "value approach" backfired. I jumped at a package because it seemed so inexpensive and supposedly met our needs. The TA may have loved it, but for us it ended up being really cheap...which convinced me that as important as it was to have a knowledgeable TA, it was even more important to be a knowledgeable shopper.
I think shoppers who do their homework can quickly spot a TA that can add value to a vacation, as opposed to one who merely writes a ticket and makes a phone call or two.
PS: By the way, for that "cheap trip" we were given canvas beach bags with the TA's name emblazoned on them...which we promptly trashed.
An interesting subject. I used a local TA for a WDW vacation and ended up doing all the leg work myself, a really bad expreience. So when we decided to book a cruise, I was leary about using a TA and spent a lot of time on the internet. But hubby, probably with good reason, wanted someone he could reach out and touch for our first cruise so I hit 3 or 4 locals (not the original!!) until I found someone who seemed presonable and helpful. She gave me a lot of information and a quote which I promptly compared to the internet quotes I had. One was a couple hundred less. She was very up front in saying that they were unable to match the internet offer but did agree to split the difference with me. To me this is what a local business does. She didn't try to dissuade me from using the internet TA but made a good faith effort to keep my business. She did of course promise to keep track of any drop in prices, upgrades available etc. and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. (by the way, is there any way I can check on these things myself?) Bottom line, price is important but the right relationship is everything.
Thank you everyone for all the enlightening replys. I have learned a lot and will probably play it by ear on gifts and discounts. We post our group rates when we quote and give a little discount on top of that for what I would give as a gift. We have gotten 3 bookings and I think all three will at least give me first shot at quotes and referrals. It is a lot of work, especially those that really don't have specific dates or destinations but at least we are getting our name out there and hopefully they are signing up on our web site for specials given. You just never know. To keep conversation going. I would be interested in those that post how they determine who to go with. Does timely responses count? If there is a $5.00 difference, what do they take in to consideration when they make a decision?
Thank you again for all the responses very very interesting.
IMHO, good public relations is your greatest asset. To illustrate...I sent the same basic request to a few discount TAs..."2 seniors looking for a luxury gourmet cruise through the Panama Canal -- at a discount, comfortable room with balcony, airfare from DFW, cruise line open. What do you suggest?"
Two people didn't respond at all. Guess who I'll avoid in the future.
Two provided a quote, one of which was quite detailed. I may well go back to both.
One young lady called to learn more about our travel likes, dislikes, previous cruise experience, etc. She then sent me 3 quotes with a recommendation as to which she believed would best serve our interests. She also gave me her direct line for questions, etc.
To keep this short, her quote was about $100 over the lowest I received. But I trust her. IMHO, $100 for peace of mind out of a $4400 trip is well worth it. She made me feel that I was her most important client and that she'll be watching out for us until we get home next spring.
It all boils down to how we each define "value." By investing a little time and effort, she managed to add to her immediate sales and to plant a few seeds that might just bloom into future sales. She took the time to learn just the right buttons to push.
I do a lot of shopping over the Net but when it comes to airfares and cruise's I'll surf to compare only as I find the rates are sometimes not accurate.
My TA hopefully becomes my trusted package provider and if she bills me a rate above what ever the commission is , so be it. TA's are having to become very service oriented as the air fare commission's have been cut back to almost 5% or lower. In the corporate market its even worst as we in business tend to change our dates and expect the TA to just re-process a few days over the $20-30 max they might have got on the initial trip bookings.
In the private world, I want to know that my TA is back their to support me when something goes wrong during the trip. If the TA uses the WEB as a means to advertise , fine, but they must be willing to support me, For that piece of mind, I'll pay the extra.
In our relationship, I'll send her info I find she might not be aware of and she answers my emails that I probably send with questions prior to my trip. We both get to know each other and respect each other.
For my wife and I with the kids now on their own and us working we can find more dollars to take the really nice trips more then once a year. So, to me our relationship with our TA is worth keeping and fostering as we all benefit over the years.
I have to agree with you, VALUE is not always the least expensive cruise. I went on the Norway, because I wanted to see her, but that was the most awful cruise I have taken. My point is that I have a travel agent that I trust completely to get me the best value for my money. I took the NCL agent that contacted me about going on this cruise at her word, that this was as good or better than any of the other mainstream lines offerings. I booked it and then called my agent so she could take care of the booking for me, and she told me that knowing what my preferences were that I was not going to have as good a time as I would on another mainstream line The bottom line is that she was RIGHT!!! I came back and told her of my experiences on that cruise (they were not all bad, but it was not as good as I had hoped) and she then calmly told me that I should listen to her...lol. The valude is not always in the price...I could have paid less for all of the cruises that I have been on, but I like the level of service that I recieve from my TA. Oh, by the way, to answer the original question, my TA has always given me a bottle of wine or some other small gift, but I would not be remotely upset if she did not, as then it would be an EXPECTATION, not a gift.