Hays Travel has scored 95.2% in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, beating brands such as John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Apple.
Chair Dame Irene Hays revealed the score, calculated by the Institute of Customer Service, at the Hays Travel retail conference in Portugal.
The agency joined the Institute of Customer Service in April and ICS surveyed 4,000 Hays Travel customers to ask about their experience with the company.
The average across all UK sectors is 76.6% and the leisure average is 80%.
“We recruit on personality. If you recruit great people, you get great service,” she told delegates.
She recalled how she and her late husband John had once arranged for chocolate shoes to be delivered to a high-spending cruise customer after hearing about how the client had previously taken 68 pairs of shoes on a long sailing.
And she told delegates about Sara Short, from the Titchfield branch in Hampshire, who travelled to London and queued for hours to get a passport for an elderly customer who was taking her last ever cruise and hadn’t realised her passport had expired.
“What is the pixie dust that you have that makes the difference between satisfaction and delight?” Dame Irene asked delegates.
To encourage customer service excellence, retail director Jane Schumm unveiled a new recognition programme for staff called Be the Sunshine, offering the opportunity for one agent to win more than £5,000.
Those reaching the first level will get a certificate and £100.
At the regional level, winners receive a bronze certificate, £1,000 and Be the Sunshine bronze badge.
Five divisional winners will receive a silver certificate, £1,000 and silver badge – and attend the 2024 retail conference.
The national winner will scoop £3,000 along with a badge and certificate.
“We want you to be hungry to be the sunshine,” Schumm told delegates.
Leanne Cox, senior learning and development manager, said feedback from customer surveys had highlighted ways the agencies could improve, such as recruiting more staff, investing in refurbishments and ensuring details are correct on bookings from the start, so it is acting on those needs.
She said a trial of drinks machines for customers will start in January as some customers had said they would have liked refreshments while they waited to see a consultant.
More examples of great customer service were shared during a discussion hosted by Lucy Huxley, Travel Weekly editor-in-chief.
Jo Dobbie, manager at Aylsham, explained how ‘girl band Aylsham’ create a bubbly atmosphere showcase their personalities.
They interact on social media and work with the charity Mind in their community.
Martin Brown, Carlisle manager, said first impressions are important so he keeps windows and the store looking clean and “fabulous”.
He arranged for a client who used to be in the army to get a Defence Service Card sorted for onboard credit – the client’s son and family now book with the agency too.
When arranging lengthy bookings with a family, he encourages kids to sit in his chair and press the button to finalise the sale.
John Stewart, franchise owner at Dundee and Broughty Ferry, told how one young agent travelled to Glasgow to get a last-minute new passport for a 93-year-old client, and Emma Manley, Broughton manager, had managed win over two disgruntled customers: one who had been upset to see her cruise was cheaper close to departure and the other was unhappy about a potential data breach.
Manley liaised with the cruise line and arranged for chocolates and champagne in the first customer’s cabin, and, after chatting to the other client, she got ancillaries added to the booking and another sale as well.
Dame Irene rounded off the conference with a quote from Hayley Gadd, manager at Weymouth, who said: “It’s not our usual day job but you are showing everyone what kind of person you are…and that you care.
“That is the sort of person I would trust with my holiday – someone who cares.”
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