Providing an Expert with Expert Customer Service
by Judy Jacobs

Some might find it intimidating to serve as the travel agent for a consultant named the “New Guru of Customer Service Excellence” by The Financial Post. But Lisa Timmons of United Nations Travel in Philadelphia takes it in stride.

Timmons met Micah Solomon, a speaker and author on customer service, after he gave up trying to book his own frequent travel online and decided to use a travel agent.

Early last month, Solomon wrote about why he uses an agent on Forbes.com. The article is titled “Why I Happily Waste Money on a Travel Agent (Maybe You Should Too.)

Solomon found Timmons through his tennis teacher, who is also a concert promoter. He felt that an agent who can handle musicians with their demanding travel needs, should be able to handle his as well.

United Nations Travel is a single-location, brick-and-mortar agency in downtown Philadelphia with three full-time agents. All of its business, which is about 80% corporate, comes through referrals. The agency doesn’t have a website.

As a musician herself – and member of a four-piece female Celtic band called the Molly Blooms – Timmons is well aware of the needs of musicians and other travelers with out-of-the-ordinary requirements.

Travel Market Report talked with Timmons about how she’s able to impress a customer service expert like Solomon.

What does customer service mean to you?
Timmons: For me customer service is natural. It’s taking care of every need that you see. Being happy, being friendly, having clients walk away feeling better than when they came in. Doing whatever’s needed and doing it with a smile.

What practices make for good customer service?
Timmons: Follow-up is an important part of customer service. If someone sends you an email they don’t want to wait three days for you to get back to them. If I can’t deal with them right away, I email them and tell them I’ll get back to them later. I never wait more than an hour to get back to people. It could be 10 minutes, but an hour’s the maximum.

Customer service is being aware of every little issue that needs to be dealt with. Getting seats, for example, is a big problem. If there are only middle seats left, we’ll call the client and tell them. They might want to book another flight. We do whatever it takes. For international travelers, we advise people to check their passport to make sure they have six months left on it.

You also need to be willing to admit that you’ve made a mistake. If we’ve made a mistake, we take care of it, but we also recognize that it happened.

What do you think some agents are doing wrong in serving clients?
Timmons: People like to get somebody they know to begin with. In a lot of companies you’ll get somebody on the phone, and you may not get the same person the next time. A profile can only do so much. When you deal with someone again and again, it gives some consistency. Because we’re a smaller agency we can offer that real intimate service.

What do you think sets you and your agency apart?
Timmons: Here we’re more than just travel agents. Most of my clients would call me a friend. I like that. It makes me feel good about myself. They trust me. That’s a good thing. They know I wouldn’t let them down.

Related Story
Customer Service Pro: Be a Partner & a Mommy



  0
  0
Comment:
You must be logged in to leave a comment Login | Register
Tip of the Day

I called Tauck to check in, as my guests are due to arrive this week. Agents and suppliers working together makes traveling work! Prayers to those affected in Italy.

Michelle Duncan
President & CEO, Odyssey Travel Inc.

Daily Top List

Top Hotels & Resorts In Africa & The Middle East

1. One & Only Cape Town, South Africa

2. Royal Malewane, Kruger National Park, South Africa

3. SingitaSabi Sand, South Africa

4. Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa

5. One & Only Royal Mirage, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Source: Virtuoso

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
American Express Taps Suri to Lead Rep Travel Network
American Express Taps Suri to Lead Rep Travel Network

Suri, who began his new role roughly two months ago, replaces Yana Carter Gutierrez.

Travel Agents Are Key To Reducing Cancellations During ‘Disruptive’ Events, USTOA Reports
Travel Agents Are Key To Reducing Cancellations During ‘Disruptive’ Events, USTOA Reports

After a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, information should come first from a travel agent, and then from the tour operator, a new study suggests.

Six Tips for Travel Agents Building An Experiential Travel Niche: Part One
Six Tips for Travel Agents Building An Experiential Travel Niche: Part One

Veteran travel agents share ideas on how to grow this profitable business.

Super Charge Your Email Marketing Campaigns
Super Charge Your Email Marketing Campaigns

While many marketing professionals maintain a fascination with social media, experts say travel agents shouldn’t overlook the perennial workhorse, email.

Agencies Face Challenges In Hiring, Recruiting Talent
Agencies Face Challenges In Hiring, Recruiting Talent

“Being a good boss and an understanding boss can retain good talent; finding them is another story.”

See Things Not As They Are, But As They Could Be!
See Things Not As They Are, But As They Could Be!

Today, consumers themselves can get all the information they could ever want. What they really need, though, is someone to create a compelling story.

News Briefs
Advertiser's Voice
Travel Market Report Spotlight: Celebrity Cocktails