Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
When it comes to providing customer service, Sam Walton once said, “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.”
In the travel industry, agents are also working hard to provide legendary service. Agents are already there for their traveling clients who lose passports, travel itineraries or have family emergencies and need to get home as soon as possible. When the worst happens, it’s agents to the rescue.
Al Richman remembers when he had to come to the rescue for clients who were at sea when something changed. Richman was living in the Ft. Lauderdale area in 2003 and had new clients from Maryland sailing in from Miami. He received a notification of an air schedule change while they were at sea which would have caused them to miss the flight.
“The new flight time was departing before they would actually be off the ship,” said Richman, a Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist in Lantana, Florida. “I was able to change the flight; however, they would have to stay at the airport for seven hours.”
This story was before cell phones were prevalent, so Richman went out of his way to meet the clients at the airport and find out when they would arrive.
“By the time we found them, they learned about the schedule change that I had arranged,” said Richman.
Rather than have them wait at the airport and be bored for many hours, Richman took the clients and their luggage to a restaurant and gave them a small tour around Miami.
The over-the-top customer service has paid off for Richman. “They have booked vacations with us ever since and they send many referrals our way,” he said. “The afternoon we re-arranged our plans for ‘strangers’ to not sit in an airport for seven hours has resulted in a new friendship and thousands of dollars in residual income over the last 14 years.”
Sara Perkins has adorned her virtual travel agent superhero cape as well when a husband and wife came to her office to discuss taking a bucket list vacation of an Alaskan cruise tour. “He loves taking pictures and was especially looking forward to the wildlife and scenery in Alaska,” she said.
Unfortunately, the husband suffered from a stroke a few years back and had been in speech therapy ever since. “Taking this trip meant being around lots of people and the daunting task of communicating with them,” explained Perkins. “At home he keeps paper and pen all around the house to help him communicate. His wife is always quick to speak for him and I could see this sometimes frustrated him more.”
After they booked the cruise tour, flights, hotels and excursions, there were a few more months until departure, so Perkins purchased and mailed to him a "Boogie Board" with a carrying case to take on the trip.
“It's a flat board with a stylus where a person can write a message then with a press of a small button it all erases to start over,” she said. “This was not a Bon Voyage gift, but, a personal gift from me. Both he and his wife were so excited with this and had never seen one! She told me he even took it to his therapy session to share with others. This now gave him an easier way to communicate and was small enough to pack into his camera bag and always have it with him.”
Again, her customer service paid off. “They have since returned from this vacation and had a wonderful, stress-free time!” said Perkins. “They came back to my office to share his beautiful photos and told me he enjoyed 'talking' to their dinner table guests and many others. Their Bucket-List vacation was more than they expected. Now they want to plan a trip to Hawaii!”
What’s your best over-the-top customer service story?