Behind the curtain at Travelocity.

By Kerry Roberts 

Perhaps many of you book travel the same way I do (and if not, and you’re all more organized, I don’t want to know).   My usual routine is to hit a travel website, book the best flight a few weeks (ok, sometimes days) before I leave and then calmly go about life until minutes before I leave for the airport and realize  I should check on my reservation.

This week my laissez-faire approach nearly backfired on me.  As I’m ramming that extra pair of shoes into my carry-on, I grab my blackberry to pull up my Travelocity confirmation email – except that it’s not there.  Gulp.   I try to stay calm . . . did I somehow forget to complete the transaction?  Do I stay home?  I shudder to think of the price of a last minute ticket.  Can I admit to my co-workers that I can’t make the meeting because I’m a complete dolt?

After taking my anger out on my strappy sandals (they fit!).  I sit down at my laptop.  Does Travelocity even have a 1-800 number?  I’ve had such a wonderfully low-maintenance relationship with them so far, limited to a few clicks and emails.  Do they even have real human employees?

Hidden up on the right corner of the screen is a Customer Service Line (yes!).  I nervously call and a wonderful, calm woman talks me off my ledge, takes down some information and easily finds my reservation while I’m holding my breath.   She quickly emails me the confirmation numbers, makes sure the details are correct and in short, saves my “you-know-what” big time.

I used to think that 1-800 numbers were a necessary evil for my grand-parents generation.  Today I’m feeling as if they are just about THE most powerful tool possible to forge, strengthen or mend a customer relationship in an intimate manner.   Sure, they lack the sexiness of a social marketing campaign, or a flashy TV spot – but if someone takes the time to sit down and call your brand, they deserve the very best possible attention and service.   I urge marketers to make time at least every few months to sit-in on the calls, to educate their customer service representatives on the strategies for their brands, or at least – to stop by and say thanks for manning the front lines.

I’ll go back to booking my trips online, but after today I can tell you one thing.  They’ll ALL be booked through Travelocity (and I might just call to say hi now and again!).

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