Category Archives: customer service

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Kwanzaa!  And very soon, Happy New Year!!  We are so excited for 2016 and we can’t wait to share it with you!

When I decided to open up Travel On A Dream, I did so in order to be a more full service agency for those who wanted more from me.  I hand-selected agents who had the same beliefs as me about customer service.  I did believe that offering great customer service and knowing as much as possible about the products was what we needed to succeed.  And we did!  But what I didn’t notice at the time was there was one more ingredient to the recipe that made the most difference to the outcome.

While reviewing our business recently, we asked a couple clients what makes Travel On A Dream different.  The results were unexpected, and very exciting!  In all fairness, these clients we asked have become good friends over the years, but they also are known to be brutally honest.  Even if it’s not what we want to hear, they will tell me the truth.

Each of them said that we treat our clients like family or a close friend.  We listen to them and give them what they want (even if they don’t really know what they want at the moment!).

Hearing this made us realize we had the secret ingredient already!  We were offering it, but didn’t realize how important it was.  We never really thought about it because it just was natural for us.

We all want to you to feel like we are a close friend, helping you make the decision that’s right for you.  After all, your friend isn’t going to benefit one way or another from your decision, except that you may be unhappy with your friend if they guide you to something that’s not right.  But unlike your friend, we have the experience, knowledge, licenses and accredidations to give you sound advice beyond what your friend knows.  Not all travel agents can say this.  Many have cut corners or are giving advice based on who pays them the best.

The other difference between us and your friends is that this is our profession.  We may treat you like a friend, but we also give you all of our professional courtesies.  If a friend is helping you with something, many times it is when it is convenient for your friend as well as you.  For us, it is at your convenience.  This is also why at times we may have to charge you a service fee, but we will always disclose that to you before we have to do so.

Good friends — great adventures.  That’s what it’s all about.  With Travel On A Dream, you will always get both.  We shared this last month, but if you haven’t seen it yet, here is our holiday greeting.  Travel On A Dream Holiday Greetings

Is Customer Service Important To You?

It is to me!  There is a Honda commercial on television where the “other” car dealer is saying how reliable their warranty is and the customer says “It sounds like its the warranty that’s reliable, not the car”.  I feel the same way about a lot of things.  I don’t want a computer that has a great warranty if it means the computer is going to break weekly, even if they fix it quickly.  I don’t want the computer to break down, period!  I don’t want to have to complain about service I am receiving (or not receiving) from a company on their Facebook wall or a discussion forum to get them to respond to my needs.  If I have a problem, I expect it to be handled quickly and effectively, but I also don’t want to have the problems in the first place.

When we decided to cruise on Carnival Cruise Line, I did so with a cautious but open mind.  I really didn’t think a Carnival Cruise was for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they are a good line for many people.  I have some clients that love Carnival and I don’t think any differently of them because of this.

On the first morning onboard, I was reminded why I had low expectations of Carnival.  I attempted to log in to the internet and found it was misreporting my package.  I tried several times, restarting my machine and clearing cookies and cache, to no avail.  There was no information on the flyer about who to contact, other than during business hours, so I called Guest Services.  I used the preprogrammed button on the phone.

There were five choices on the first menu.  First was to hang up and push a different button.  The other four were options to select.  I selected “2” for onboard services.  Next was a menu with at least six choices, none that fit.  Option “0” was to go to the main menu.  Frustrated with all the options and menus, I listened longer and option “9” was to talk to someone.  I explained the problem and was told the computer manager would be at his desk at 9:00 am, in two hours.  I explained the error, said that the system likely just needed refreshing (based on my IT husband’s assessment) and was told that I should just purchase a new package.  I refused to do that as I didn’t believe that it would solve the problem.  She offered nothing else.

What bothered me was not the non-functioning internet, but rather the way Guest Services handled it.  As someone who is in Customer Service, I never want to say “there’s nothing that can be done” as a first response, especially when clearly there is something that could be done.  Tell me you’ll contact the manager and let him know, even though it might take time to get the system running again.  Do something!

We had a mostly enjoyable day and later that night we ended up talking to the cruise director as it was elegant night and he was chatting with many guests.  He asked how our cruise was going and I told him honestly.  He was apologetic and understood where I was coming from.  He sent a note to our cabin a night or two later, thanking us and wishing us an enjoyable cruise.  I thought it was nice.  It certainly helped us feel better and enjoy the cruise more.

We kept an open mind and things seemed to get better.  We enjoyed all the trivia.  There was always a lot of trivia, but it seemed like not much else was going on.  On port days, nothing happened.  An hour or two before all aboard, trivia started.  We did go to a few shows.  The main theater times were 8:30 and 10:30.  It was tough to stay up so late.

We did have a few other small issues, but had a good time with our shore excursions and meeting other guests.  What happened next was not Carnival’s fault.  Every night our neighbors across the hall would come in at midnight and talk loud outside our room.  Finally, I had enough.  I opened the door and asked that they take it inside.  I went back to sleep, only to wake up at 2:40 am by the phone.  No one was there.  I hung up and it immediately rang again.  After the third time, I called Guest Services (by this time I saw in the FunTimes that we could dial “7777” to get right to a person in Guest Services).  The agent said she would alert security and they would trace the calls, but to call again if it continued.  Unfortunately, taking the phone off the hook would not work as for security reasons, the phones would ring even if off the hook.  The next call happened a few minutes later.  I called again and while I was dialing I heard other phones nearby ringing.  The agent said security was alerted and she got other complaints.  They would trace who did it.

We went back to Guest Services the next afternoon to see what happened.  We weren’t asked for our name or cabin number and were told measures were now in place if it happened again that night.  They didn’t have measures in place before this, a trace needed to be set up, etc.  I may not know how each cruise line handles it, but I do know that they log all calls, all uses of key cards and videotape many if not all public areas.  I accepted the explanation, knowing it would just frustrate me more to argue.  Personally, I think it was a mistake the ship made with their system of automated calls and they didn’t want to tell us.  This was the final confirmation I needed to realize that Carnival just isn’t up to my expectations.

Customer Service is very important to me and this just didn’t measure up.  My full review of our Carnival cruise will be in a separate blog.  We did have a good time overall, it just isn’t a cruise line we will go back to in the near future.

What’s More Important: Best Onboard Credit Or Best Service

I must first of all clarify the headline here.  This isn’t always an either or and sometimes you will get a great onboard credit as well as great customer service.  But this isn’t always the case and you need to decide what is important to you.

Fairly frequently, I receive a request for a quote with the potential client asking up front “How much is your onboard credit?”  When I get those requests, I nearly always assume that person is looking only for the best onboard credit.  This is important to those traveling who are very comfortable with all aspects of their travel experience.  They have been on numerous cruises and don’t need assistance from a travel agent for selecting a sailing, a stateroom, a cruise line.  They should also be someone who is comfortable dealing with any issues that come up. That last point is the thing that many people don’t consider.  It’s the attitude that bad things only happen to other people.

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