customer service

How not to sell hotel rooms

If you are in the hospitality business and a potential customer inquires about a product or service you are not offering at the moment, would you suggest an alternative or simply send the person away? The reservations office at the Dorchester South Beach Hotel did the latter last week, which I attributed to poorly trained staff.

I noticed on TravelZoo’s Twitter page a very attractive deal at the Dorchester, promising a room “across the street from the ocean in Miami’s trendy South Beach Art Deco District for $69 per night.” I just booked a trip to Miami in January, and though it seemed the promotion wouldn’t last that long, I thought I’d inquire anyway. I called the hotel’s in-house reservations number, and an agent named Alvaro told me the low rate was valid only through late October…

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U.S. ESTA trouble for SAS passengers

It has been more than seven months since the new U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) has been mandatory for airlines that fly citizens of visa-waiver countries to the United States. Yet some carriers’ computer systems are reportedly experiencing serious problems, resulting in denied boarding for travelers with valid ESTAs.

Last week, I received a disturbing e-mail message from an Austrian citizen who had read my previous coverage of ESTA issues. On July 5, she wasn’t allowed on a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flight from Stockholm to Chicago, for which the carrier blamed problems with the passenger’s ESTA…

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US Airways hears feedback, fixes website

US Airways has set a good example of listening to customer feedback and fixing a problem. In my case, there was added criticism in a newspaper column, but instead of complaining, the airline rolled up sleeves and started working.

In March, I wrote in my Washington Times column about its website’s inability to display many itineraries, even when booked directly with US Airways. At the time, spokeswoman Valerie Wunder at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix arranged a conference call with two in-house experts, who told me that the reason for the glitch was the site’s failure to recognize some foreign airport codes…

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Travel companies teach customer-service lessons

One of the biggest misconceptions about the travel industry is that it offers the worst customer service around. In fact, in the last couple of years, airline and hotel companies have achieved significant improvements, and it would be wise for other businesses to watch and learn.

Regular readers of this column can testify that I’m no apologist for the travel sector — I try to point out both good and bad practices, though the criticism may sometimes outweigh the praise. But I get angry when I read or hear in the media that airlines are synonymous with bad customer service…

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Higher standards for travel sector?

How many horror stories about airline customer service have you heard? There are certainly plenty in the press and many more on various travel Web sites. Still, do we apply the same standards and scrutiny to companies outside the travel industry?

The nature of the airline and hotel businesses requires constant face-to-face interaction with customers, and an employee’s every step is evaluated by a flier or a hotel guest much more often than by a supervisor. In fact, thanks to the Internet, thousands of people can learn about an incident involving a front-line employee hours — if not days — before the company’s management does. Earlier this month, a San Francisco man complained that a United Airlines agent took a break…

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