Peter Carideo, president of Chicago-based CRC Travel, calls his Web
site (www.crctravel.com) a "work in progress. We're playing
In fact, the site differs from most other agencies' because of
its emphasis on leading the consumer to a variety of information
sources. "We are your travel portal, bringing you all the resources
and information you need to book your next trip or to surf the
Internet," reads the introductory copy.
Under the World News heading, for
example, the site provides links to headline news; stock quotes and
business; technology; sports, and entertainment news through Excite.com. The
current "cool link" is to Luxurylink.com, an upscale travel site.
There also is an extensive list of cruise sites as well as links
to cruise magazines and to many general destination sites and
search engines, from the Opinionated
Traveler to the search engine Islands Information
By acting as a link to other sites, the agency is setting itself
up as low-key resource for its clients -- with integrity. "If I
were going to copy everything from other sites into ours, people
would question that," Carideo said.
The site also recently linked to one shopping site that offers
discounts on products such as camcorders, and another that sells
travel accessories. The agency will earn a small percentage on
these sales, though, since this service is "brand new, nothing has
come of it yet," Carideo said.
Clients can book on the site, and through Sabre's Virtually
There can check up-to-the-minute itinerary and destination
information -- a very popular feature, according to Carideo. The
site also plays up several of the agency's specialties. "We're
known for getting hotel rooms in Chicago at difficult times" -- a
boon for out-of-town clients as well as local corporate clients who
frequently have employees from other offices around the country
come in, said Carideo. So the site promotes the agency's special
Carideo, who first invested in the site three years ago, said he
doesn't know that it's paid for itself yet but feels it's
worthwhile -- especially dealing with an expanding base of clients
who "have told us they'll only do business through e-mail and by
Web site because it's more efficient."Fees and the law
Charging service fees does not increase an agency's liability,
though there are practices related to fees that might introduce
risks, according to Toronto attorney Doug Crozier, counsel to the
Association of Canadian Travel Agents.
Agents should consider the following issues:
Clients must agree to pay the fees, and they can only agree if
the agency has been careful to fully disclose its fees before
travel purchases are made.Even if the agency has met all of its legal obligations, the
customer might expect more. Unrealistic expectations can lead to
costly misunderstandings.If clients compare notes and discover they paid different fees,
there could be the same annoyance passengers feel at discovering
that a seatmate paid less for an air ticket.If a large number of members of an agency consortium charge
lower fees for preferred suppliers than for others, those agencies
could be accused of conspiracy by a disfavored supplier.Agents carrying errors-and-omissions insurance should check
with their insurance provider to be certain their use of fees has
not undermined their coverage.
These pointers come from the 2000 national law symposium, titled
Caveat Venditor: Current Trends and Preventative Measures in Travel
Agent Liability, co-sponsored by Travel Weekly and ARTA with
MasterCard International.The all-important follow-up
It seems that today's customers are more ready to complain than
ever when something isn't to their liking. What percentage of
dissatisfied customers do you think actually complain? Twenty-five
Would you believe it's less than 5%? That's right. Research
shows that fewer than one of 20 dissatisfied customers bothers to
the rest do? Simply switch loyalties to another company. Worse
still, the average dissatisfied customer tells 11 others about his
or her bad experience. So what can you do?
The best defense is a good offense. That means countering any
displeasure before it's had time to erode into severe
dissatisfaction and negative word of mouth. And the easiest way to
do this is to be proactive: Follow up the sale.
One of the first objections I hear whenever I discuss the
necessity of the post-sale follow-up is that it takes too much time
away from selling. But follow-up is a part of selling -- an
important part. It's through follow-up that you complete the sale
by fixing problems and getting ideas for what you did well -- or
could do better next time.
Good follow-up can be quite simple and inexpensive. Consider the
thank-you note, the message left on an answering machine, or, for
your most important clients, the in-person office visit.
Furthermore, the time you take today may save even more time
down the road. It's a lot easier to make a phone call today than to
try to win back the business of an unhappy customer months from
Follow-up also reinforces the notion that you want a
relationship with your clients -- not just a one-time sale. And in
today's competitive agency environment, it's long-term
relationships that are the greatest source of profitability.
Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles