Comment: Disruption is no excuse for poor service

Agents will reward those who treat partners and customers with respect, says Arron Mitchell of tour operator Syte and agency Resfeber

Recently I was supposed to be jetting off to sunnier climes for a short break, but like many others, my flights were cancelled. So instead of sipping on a Mythos Beer, eating Gryos in Greece, I swapped it for seafood and afternoon tea in Cornwall.

Like all agents and operators, we’ve experienced some disruption over recent weeks with clients’ flights cancelled, hotel closures, villas being sold in Orlando, tours being cancelled and cruises being cancelled.

It’s pretty much been the case that you get one set of clients sorted and then another situation rears its head.

I decided to take over all disrupted bookings to allow my team to focus on dealing with general post-booking queries and take new bookings – otherwise my entire team would have been dealing with disruptions and no one would have been able to service new and existing customers.

As the sole person dealing with disrupted bookings, I’ve experienced varying levels of customer service across the sector, from one end of the spectrum to the polar opposite.

I’ve gone from situations in which I’ve said “thank you, you are a godsend” to suppliers, to times when I have muted my phone and counted to 10, appalled at the attitude of some operators.

We are a business that acts as a retail agent and also as a tour operator which deals with direct clients and agents so we see all sides. As an operator, when we are presented with a problem we come up with solutions so when we break the news to the customers that something has changed within their booking, we already have a solution for them. It’s one of the basic principles of our business that we don’t inconvenience our customers until we have that solution in place for them.

So it still amazes me when we get a call about a disruption, or worse, people hiding behind emails, and dropping a huge problem on our plate but having no solution in place, and not even apologising. How can you not have a solution, and how can the attitude of “well, what do you expect me to do about it?” be acceptable? My response is to take the full refund and put the business elsewhere, thank you very much.

Travel agents have long memories and will not forget the way they are treated by suppliers.

Everyone in the industry is still experiencing disruption and recruitment issues so it’s interesting to see some operators blaming Covid for poor staffing levels and service. I don’t accept that. I see many operators working on skeleton staff and still providing a high level of service to their agents and customers.

To those operators that have bent over backwards to sort out our booking issues, or at least given it a good try, thank you from me, the rest of my team and our customers from the bottom of our hearts. To those that didn’t, all I can say is ‘good luck’.

Arron Mitchell is director of specialist youth tour operator Syte (start your travel escape) and travel agency Platinum World Travel, trading as Resfeber

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