Recognising customer service in travel

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
cartoon of a suitcase bearing a smile

If we are satisfied with cutomer service why aren’t there more awards for it Image© Dan Sperrin

There are many ways in which a holiday, a day-trip, a weekend break, a cruise or any travel arrangement can be made distressing for the person involved.

One of the ways that a holiday may not be the best is the service that the customer receives. Companies go to great lengths to train staff in customer service spending considerable sums of money, time and often offering bonuses to staff who deliver high levels of customer service and satisfaction.

In a study made by Just about Travel of thirty different tourism awards handed out in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the last twelve months, at least a third didn’t specifically recognise customer service.

Organisations could claim that all awards include an element of customer service, as indeed they should, but not rewarding a key element does tend to understate not only the role of customer service and satisfaction but also the investment that companies put into providing improved customer care. If a company is voted “Best” and a public vote is included, you could argue that a person wouldn’t vote for that company unless customer service was good.

The British Tourism Awards  anointed the largest number of customer service winners, there being awards in large, medium and small tour operators as well as for travel retailer, ferries  and cruise lines. It has no customer service awards in hospitality or air travel.

Of the four five national awards, England, Ireland and Scotland have no specifically named customer service awards. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, did have a customer excellence category and Wales had an award for Best Visitor Welcome which is, in a small part, a contributor to customer service. Visit England could manage a “Great China Welcome of the Year” but no welcome for domestic or any other overseas country’s visitors.

cartoon of an unhappy suitcase

If there aren’t is it because customer service, is not high? Image © Dan Sperrin

In Scotland, in the five regional heats and the Scottish Thistle Awards there was a Tourism & Hospitality Hero category. This, in their words, “celebrates the special individual on the front line of the customer service experience who makes the visitor feel as if they are the single most important visitor they have ever met.” My argument with these awards is that when they are publicised in the press, the name of the award is all that appears. What it stands for or how to get underneath the gloss that PR agencies put on the titles used isn’t mentioned by the media.  The reason why is because they aren’t told in the press releases and few check out what the titles mean. The old adage that if it isn’t in the first paragraph then it isn’t going to be read is true as it pertains to award titles as well. Few people if any will read the explanation even if one is included.

To put it another way, if it doesn’t say it on the can, people won’t believe that it is a customer service or satisfaction award.

I have no hesitation is saying that individuals should be rewarded and titles like “Unsung hero” are common. But one person can only achieve so much. The entire organisation be it a guest house, tour operator or cruise company has to embrace customer service. Why don’t travel and tourism awards reflect this?

Like most industries, travel and tourism loves awards and the opportunity to meet up and sup the odd drink or three. Since the British Travel Awards started in 2008, the number of awards they give has mushroomed so that there are now hundreds. The national awards don’t run to anywhere near that many but they are growing so why can’t they include specific customer service and satisfaction awards.

What we want is the perfect holiday. And that means excellent customer service

Should a body like the Institute of Customer Service sponsor such an award in travel it being the trade body for customer service professionals? At its 2017 awards a fortnight ago the only travel company that achieved an award was in the category of Customer Service Strategic Leadership Award which was won by Kathryn O’Brien, the Customer Experience Director of the rail company – TransPennine Express. What we don’t know is whether any tour operator, airline, cruise company, travel firm or destination was nominated for any award.

As readers know, Just about Travel, considers that customer satisfaction is a vital ingredient of the travel and tourism. It is what customers want so that they can return home and say what a great holiday they have just had. Over the years, by my reckoning we have written 104 stories about customer service and satisfaction. When a story appears there is reader comment yet the industry seems to shy away from extolling their successes in delivering customer service and satisfaction.

Maybe there is an alternative.

Just as the Oscars have their equivalent for bad films, poorly acted roles and less than stellar productions called the “Razzies” maybe travel should have awards for poor customer service based on the number of complaints made to ABTA, the number of court cases outstanding, the quantity of alternative dispute resolutions in the pipeline and the number of complaints made to the Citizens Advice Bureau or Trading Standards.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , , ,