Monday, April 03, 2006

Why service is marketing's (unused) secret weapon

Evan Wood is a Toronto-based marketer who has just started a blog on “smarter travel marketing.”

In his first post, on March 20, he asked why the travel industry spends so little time and money trying to keep him (and others) as a customer. “Every year,” he writes, “I spend thousands (if not tens of thousands) of hard-earned dollars on travel, both for pleasure and for business. With the exception of the frequent-flyer organizations, I’m very hard-pressed to think of any travel or hospitality organization that has tried to approach me as a customer to garner my repeat business. It’s ludicrous!”

He’s right, of course (although of course it’s not just the travel industry that fails to market to its own). Evan asked his readers to comment on their experiences in the travel biz, so I thought I’d throw in my 2 pesos’ worth:

“I think the problem with customer service in the travel business is a lack of staff training resulting in a shortage of respect for the client.

"The goal of every flight crew is to get you out of their hair and down to baggage claim ASAP. The goal of the check-in desk is to process (i.e., get rid of) a long line of surly, demanding people, as fast as possible. Customers' selfish need for special services ("Oh, I wanted an aisle seat!" "I need a late checkout!") merely exacerbates the tension as it interferes with efficient herd management ("Next!").

Clearly, none of these "service" employees have been properly trained in their real duty - making sure that the next time the customer travels, he or she will fly with/stay with/visit their employer again.

If travel-industry employers taught their employees that today's customer is tomorrow's raise, next year's promotion and long-term job security, then perhaps customer service would be valued more as a vital part of the marketing function instead of an unrewarding herd-management chore.

And maybe companies wouldn't have to work so hard convincing customers to come back.

(Could give whole new meaning to the word "Next!")

You can check out Evan's original post (and the discussison, if any) here.

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