Buddy Rice Says Customer Service Is Key In An Online World

by Richard D'Ambrosio
Buddy Rice Says Customer Service Is Key In An Online World

With online reviews and media exposure, a glaring spotlight is shining on the travel industry, declaring winners and losers instantaneously.

A bad review is always just one click away, so travel agents and the airlines and hotels they sell need to ensure they deliver a great customer experience.

“The industry is getting so much exposure, good and bad, true or not true,” said Buddy Rice, a long time airline customer service executive. “Travel agents need to learn how to create an above-average experience consistently. Average doesn’t get you loyalty, or market share.”

Travel agents need to think about how to handle instant information on the internet, where a customer service success story will gain them referrals, and where they may lose business because someone wrote a bad review. “People will buy or not buy based on any customer’s comments,” Rice said.

The key is to create a lasting impression that projects the strengths of a travel agent’s brand during good times, and transcends honest mistakes. He calls it “building a culture around the heart of service.”

Rice, who worked at Delta Airlines in various customer service roles, has been in the travel industry for about 30 years. He will discuss how agents can create a culture of service that delivers memorable experiences time after time, and project an agency’s brand promise, at Travel MarketPlace in Toronto, June 13-14.

He likes to tell about a consulting assignment he had in Shelbyville, LA. He was staying at a small motel near the company he was assisting, when one morning he made a comment to the woman at the front desk about how beautiful a tree in front was. When he returned from work that evening, Rice found fresh cut blooms from the tree in his room.

“This woman probably didn’t go to some expensive college hospitality program, but she knew how to make people happy. That is the heart of service. People are proud to serve others. We have to make the service industry something to be proud of.”

Rice will talk about his theories on how consistently good service can be even better than the luxurious amenities and grand gestures more commonly associated with great customer service.

“We have to know how to create a culture in travel that recognizes that little things make a difference.  It’s the low cost/no cost things that can absolutely create a memorable experience,” Rice believes.

“I don’t mind serving myself with kiosks and online, but I also want you to catch me before I know I am going to fall. If my flight was canceled four to five hours ago, and you are telling me now, I could have made some choices. I want travel professionals at every level of the organization to anticipate my needs.”

At Delta, Rice was instrumental creating training and service initiatives, helping manage continuous improvement teams, leadership development, employee engagement and service excellence programs. His most recent responsibilities at Delta included leading The Crown Room Clubs', now branded as SKYCLUBS. 

Rice was responsible for worldwide operations, staffing, and quality assurance programs.  Under his leadership, the clubs garnered recognition by Business Traveler and Executive Travel magazines as best airport lounges in the world. Rice also served on the transition team during Delta's merger with Northwest Airlines, implementing the cultural changes required in merging the two companies.

Tip of the Day

We, as advisors, have to start looking at different avenues that will pay better for us, so you can continue to at least be profitable.

Nicole Mazza, Travelsavers

Daily Top List

The Best Travel Pillows

1. Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow

2. Travelrest Memory Foam Travel and Neck Pillow

3. Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow

4. J-Pillow

5. Bcozzy Chin Supporting Travel Pillow

Source: Jetsetter


What You Need to Know About Selling Cruises to Foodies

Travelers today increasingly seek out authentic culinary experiences, wanting to go beyond restaurant lists and celebrity chefs, to experiences that are more varied, more three-dimensional, immersive and real.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
ASTA Needs Advisor Support for California IC Bill
ASTA Needs Advisor Support for California IC Bill

The proposed bill, California AB5, would require California travel agencies to convert their independent contractors (ICs) into full-time employees.

Two Tour Operators Disappear, Leaving Travel Advisors and Customers in the Lurch
Two Tour Operators Disappear, Leaving Travel Advisors and Customers in the Lurch

This is a cautionary tale about a travel supplier who went out of business and left customers and travel agents in the lurch for thousands of dollars — and how to protect yourself so you do not become the next victim.

Travel Agents Balance Supporting the Dominican Republic and Their Clients
Travel Agents Balance Supporting the Dominican Republic and Their Clients

Once again, advisors struggle to combat bad news about a destination they love, while ensuring that their clients are fully informed. And a social media campaign by travel advisors is underway.

The Risks Travel Advisors Face Vetting Local Vendors
The Risks Travel Advisors Face Vetting Local Vendors

It’s one of the most difficult tasks a travel agent can outsource: Handing clients off to a local, in-market vendor. Former travel advisor Jennifer Borgh offers her tips on how to do it wisely.

ASTA Launches ‘Vacation Do Over’ Contest
ASTA Launches ‘Vacation Do Over’ Contest

Travelers can enter to win a $10,000 dream getaway planned by a professional travel advisor.

More Highlights from Travel MarketPlace East 2019
More Highlights from Travel MarketPlace East 2019

From tips about selling your agency to ideas on how to handle publicity, here are more highlights from Travel MarketPlace.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks