If you have not seen the hit show on Fox, you need to check it out. But I digress. Has anyone noticed lately that more and more travel professionals are being forced to lie to more and more suppliers? I am not talking little white lies (the check is in the mail) or any real whoppers, but why is it that agents are being forced to lie when dealing with a supplier regarding our “mutual client?”
The airlines started it—just like they start everything. On occasion a client would make a booking outside of the travel agent—maybe it was using some points or they found a “too good to miss” Internet-only fare. Heaven forbid the agent would want to note the record for a meal preference or perhaps inquire about a change. The airlines stood steadfast and refused to help their “partners.” So what did the agents do? Called back and pretended to be the client and were welcomed with open arms!
Now it seems like it is moving to the cruise lines. The other week, an agent in the TRO Community was lamenting about Disney Cruise Lines. It seems that a two cabin booking was done half online and due to a computer problem half offline. When the offline booking never received the confirmation, the agent called to inquire and was told that it was kicked out because of a duplicate email address. Disney flat out refused to allow the agent to do anything unless the agent provided the client’s email address. We need to pause here to explain that this particular agency is a high touch agency and would never allow a client to simply get the emails and e-docs that most cruise suppliers provide. There are some more twists and turns in this tale, but the end result was that the agent advised that she was going to create a fake, non-agency, email address to appease Disney.
Why does it come to this? Of course it is all about ownership of the client. The agent believes they own the client. The supplier believes they do. In fact, no one does. The client will do what they want, when they want, and with whom they want regardless of the agent or supplier’s desires.
The client came to the agent for assistance, not the supplier. So if that is the case, at least for this transaction, why can’t the agent be the point of contact? It is all about marketing and the supplier have ample opportunity to gather the information they need—and then some. Do they ask for the client’s name, address and phone number in the reservation? The email address on the comment card? Does their folio demonstrate what type of client it is? Of course!
So, why the resistance to work with the partners who actually bring the business? I have never bought into the “my client” mentality. For this transaction, the client is mine, but for the next one it might be another agent’s or it might be the supplier. As agents we need to keep sharp and vigilant and make sure that we are doing all we can to retain the client time and time again. We can’t let our guard down because we are now competing against each other, the Internet, and the suppliers.
Maybe, as we heard into a new fresh year, the suppliers who position agents as adversaries might make some resolution on their own to try and regain that whole partner thing. It sure as hell beats lying to each other!