L’Echo Touristique: How have agencies experienced the summer according to the many interactions that characterize the helpdesk?
Miriam Toad: While agencies are still dealing with staff cuts, activity hasn’t stopped for the first time since Covid. This summer we secured more customer relationships before and during our stay. This is unprecedented, especially since the airline industry is experiencing more overbooking than ever before. As a result, it has become imperative to prepare your boarding pass in advance to precisely limit the risk of overbooking. The few people who didn’t get a seat on the flight weren’t pre-registered. The fact that a client can systematically register as an agent when it cannot be done at home is new. Based on the conversations I’ve seen at the helpdesk, guests have even more questions during their stay. Once at their destination, customers call for assistance. This is also why we go through travel agencies. This means a significant amount of work in the summer and creates on-call management issues during vacations.
No more Sundays and evenings for travel agents?
Miriam Toad: It’s a bit like that, yes. Earlier in the summer, we also had problems with the TO’s emergency number not answering or not being recorded in the travel diary. What is reported to the helpdesk. Fortunately, this on-call number issue has been completely resolved since August. These difficulties in July are undoubtedly explained by the shortage of staff in post-crisis agencies, TOs, accommodation and airports. This is the first time Versailles Voyages has had such a high average revenue for a specific hotel. Two years after Covid, customers are regretting the renovations, service and lack of staff.
This summer we did a lot of customer interaction before and during our stay.
How to optimize on-call work issues?
Miriam Toad: TOs require actual on-call follow-up when agents go through TOs. Some tour operators choose this solution because they can also rely on an external service provider. In any case, the customer must be able to reach the set emergency number easily and efficiently. Otherwise he asks us, which is often the case in July… when we produce as a travel agency it is really up to us if it is available. If faced with, we will immediately organize to re-protect passengers. For the Transavia strike announced at the last minute of the week of July 14, we called back customers until 9pm to find a solution. No more office hours for agencies…
Is this perpetual availability also something that could detract from the attractiveness of the profession?
Miriam Toad: yes of course. As Jean-Charles (Franchomme, co-founder of Helpdesk) likes to say, this question is bound to evolve because we are in the age of phygitals. Even for quotes, the customer wants an answer in the evening after his day’s work is done. The concept of a schedule was shattered. In our hyper-connected world, no one wants to wait for an agency to come up with an answer.
Many reservations need to be registered at the last minute during All Saints’ Day.
Uncertainty hangs in the fall. What is the turnover of the Versailles Voyages agency you advise?
Miriam Toad: Sales in 2023 are much higher than in the last month of 2022. There are few records of the holidays of All Saints. Like last year, people’s expectations are weak. With prices rising, the French will probably change their budget mindset. The purchasing power and fears associated with Covid have created a sort of wait-and-see attitude.There are still flight cancellations and flight plan changes. But it has become the norm. Unfortunately, companies, especially Lufthansa, do not have a point of contact. I also wish there were more people on the helpdesk to provide information.
As for the overall activity, I am confident. After the back-to-school slump, there should be a lot of last-minute bookings. Tourist numbers are approaching pre-Covid. This is great.