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I just returned from a fantastic holiday in the Caribbean, and although I did no work while I was away I did come home with numerous themes for blog posts. Even when I am not focused on work I still experience service; I am a customer too.

seven_mile_beach_jamaica

Sometimes elements of a customer experience that occur behind the scenes can be crucial to success. When you travel, this is often the case. In the age of technology, there is much that is done by machines and often we don’t include any value in the human involvement of the process.

self service kiosks WOW service mentor

For example, why talk to a travel agent anymore since you can Google the cheapest airfare and hotel rates and book packages online without any help?  From quaint bed & breakfast inns to worldwide hotel chains, rates and specials are available for travellers to book. Air travel itineraries can be viewed, selected at will and paid without a paper trail ever being created. Many deal sites even have phone lines as well, if you do want to hear a human voice. Doesn’t that sound almost too good to be true? You can get almost any combination of offerings at the price of your choosing. Is there no catch to all this independence??

stranded traveler WOW Service Mentor

Well, there is a catch – there always is, unfortunately. You may go for rock bottom pricing by scanning the marketplace and working on a black market philosophy; what the market will bear is what you will get. The reason you may pay more if you go through a travel agent is that they will help to prepare you for unplanned possibilities. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, they will have suggested you have insurance to get full replacement costs and they will help you get back on track.

Machines can only offer so many options to choose from, and they are only as good as the original user. When you work with a professional travel agent, they rely on their reputation to survive in an online world, so they work hard to provide you with the best experience.

My holiday was to be a romantic getaway with my husband. The flight had  a few stopovers and with winter weather, arriving at our destination on schedule was not obvious. We were splitting our time between two resorts in Jamaica, and we needed transfers to get from one point to another.

gnome travelocity

The pieces were straight forward, but have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? Things rarely go according to plan…and when that happens how does the gnome help?

  • When the computers at the airline re-programmed our flights because of a change in flight schedules after we booked, it was our travel agent who double-checked everything to ensure there were no problems.
  • when the itinerary change meant we no longer had seats together on the plane, it was our travel agent who noticed and got us back together IMG_4416
  • in the process of re-confirming all the details, it was our travel agent who booked cool refreshments for us on the transport from the airport to the resort  and got us a room upgrade at one of the resorts
  • to make sure we were at ease and confident about all the many details, our travel agent passed along a written copy of our itinerary, with times and dates highlighted
  • it was our travel agent who supplied an extra copy of all the contact information listed out with dates for me to pass along to the house & dog sitter

Despite a rough start to our trip, our travel agent’s efforts made everything stay positive. Her expertise put things over the top on our trip when that was important.

The bliss I felt on holiday was a great reminder of the value of my time – both in planning and enjoying the vacation. I will not try to work the machines again… I will trust the professional.

What professionals do you trust, foregoing the cheaper alternative? Did it take a bad experience to teach you the value? IMG_4351

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