Travel Agents Speak Up
A survey commissioned this summer by The Reservation Company, a Las Vegas-based online booking company, asked travel agents to assess the state of their industry, with a focus on bookings before and after 9/11. Here are some of its findings:
In your opinion, are travel bookings:
Rebounding strongly (14%)
Rebounding moderately (71%)
Getting worse (14%)
Which factors do you think have hurt your business most? (circle all that apply)
Terrorism and the aftermath of Sept. 11 (71%)
The economy (71%)
The growth of online travel booking sites (50%)
Declining or vanishing commissions (28.5%)
How can travel agents increase their business?
Increased fees on tickets 7%
Selling more cruises and packages 64.2%
Pick up inventory from consolidators and wholesalers? 42.8%
Increase your marketing efforts? 50%
Rank your primary sources of income (circle all that apply)
How can you improve customer loyalty and build profits for your agency?
Improve customer service 57%
Offer more products 35.7%
Offer discounted packages or special promotions 50%
It’s A Numbers Game
The following statistics about the Nevada gaming industry are excerpted from the American Gaming Association’s publication, The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment 2002.
Current number of operating casinos – 247
Casino Employees in Fiscal Year 2001 – 205,151
Casino Employee Wages – $6.8 billion
Gross Casino Gaming Revenue – $9.5 billion
Gaming Tax Revenue – $688 million
State Gaming Tax Rate – Graduated tax rate with a maximum tax of 6.25 percent on gross gaming revenue
Visitor Volume – 49.6 million
Gaming taxes, fees and licenses paid in fiscal year 2001 to Nevada’s general fund represented nearly 39 percent of the state’s total annual collections and were the single-largest source of revenue for the general fund – even larger than sales and use taxes.
2001’s Wackiest Employment Lawsuits
Kevin Troutman of Fisher and Phillips LLP, a national law firm specializing in labor and employment issues, provides these examples of last year’s most unusual employment law cases.
- Demonstrating the importance of creating clear job descriptions, a civilian Marine Corps Morale Officer apparently took his title too literally when he had an affair with the lonely wife of a Marine who was stationed overseas. The courts ruled his termination was legal.
- In Minnesota, female employees objected to having to share their ladies’ room with a transsexual coworker, who then claimed that the employer’s rule barring “him” from using the women’s restroom amounted to unlawful discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
- A mentally ill employee suspected his coworkers were conspiring to harm him, so he requested a transfer while his allegations were being investigated. When the employer refused his transfer request, he sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court rejected the employee’s argument that an employer was obligated to reasonably accommodate an imaginary workplace obstacle.
- The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that a worker was entitled to worker’s compensation since he was unable to work because of his depression. The depression was caused by his suspension for sexually harassing several women.
- A Pennsylvania woman claimed her employer should have prevented her from having an affair with a coworker. Not to be outdone, her husband sued the establishment that served him alcohol shortly before he broke into his ex-wife’s workplace and shot at her and her boyfriend.
- A frustrated Florida waitress sued her employer for fraud and breach of contract in connection with a sales-incentive program. Believing that she had won a new Toyota, the waitress was not amused to learn that her prize was actually a “toy Yoda” – (the Star Wars character). She won the case and soon appeared at the local Toyota dealership to replace her pointed-ear gnome with four wheels and chrome.
Delivering Great Customer Service
“No organization can successfully rise above the quality of its customer service,” according to G & F Financial Group, a Canadian firm specializing in investments. The firm recently distributed a booklet with 97 tips on delivering great customer service. Here is a brief sampling:
Listen, listen, listen to your customers – If you listen carefully, most customers will tell you exactly what they want or need. Good listening skills will go a long way toward winning your customers’ confidence and loyalty.
Return phone calls within two hours or less – Potential customers are calling you in the hopes you can help them. Miss responding to their phone calls and you throw away potential sales.
Offer customers convenience – Valet parking at hotels and restaurants makes it easy for busy people to do business. That’s the reason every successful hotel chain offers this front-door service. Develop ways to make it easy for people to do business with you.
Use your customer’s name frequently – Try to use your customer’s name five times in a conversation. A customer’s name is the sweetest thing he’ll ever hear. Using it frequently will also help you remember it.
Treat customers like they’re yours for life – Do everything in your power to make the first experience of dealing with you as pleasant as possible. Treat customers well and they’ll be back.
Never leave a complaint unanswered – Breathe a little mom-and-pop into your shop by taking time to answer each and every customer comment or complaint.
Admit your mistakes, and then fix them – If you make an error, apologize quickly. People tend to be very responsive to an appeal for forgiveness in the face of an honest mistake. Studies show 95 percent of customers will do business with you again if you resolve the problem immediately.
Always be punctual – Customers are busy people, too. Being on time demonstrates professionalism, respect and a commitment to keeping your promises.
Set a good example – Setting a good example is the most effective means of communicating the kind of customer service you expect your staff to deliver. Managers who drape themselves in imperial trappings do so at their peril.
Borrow customer-service ideas from successful businesses – For example, the Disney organization is world-renowned for keeping its theme parks spotlessly clean and for its total commitment to customer service. Read books, attend seminars and visit other businesses to learn hints on how to make yours more successful.