Friday, March 30, 2012

Failure to Travel - Lessons Learnt

Some of you might have read my recent post with regards to getting back a promised refund from a well known travel agency. I have since removed that post because it served its purpose and we now have the refund. As I mentioned in that post, the aim of this blog is not to criticize any one agency, but at times drastic measures have to be taken. I also believe that every organization has bad apples in its basket, and what it does with those bad apples is completely up to them. So while my problem originated from one of the companies employees, it was also solved because of another employee of the same company sitting half way across the world, and obviously the fact that I wrote a blog about it.

While I have removed the previous blog, I did gather a few tips from the whole ordeal and I figured that I should share them with you so that maybe you don't have to go through what I did;

GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING - These are the golden words you should live by when you are booking your dream holiday. If the tour operator says he/she will give you an extra excursion, GET IT IN WRITING. When the same agency sweet talks you and promises you a cash-back or a discount, GET IT IN WRITING. When they tell you that your deposit amount is refundable, GET IT IN WRITING. Never ever take anyone's word for anything. In the last three months I have had to fight three different travel operators to get my money back over three different scenarios. The only reason I managed to get my money back was because in most cases I had everything in writing.

NO SAY, NO PAY - Make sure you have EVERYTHING IN WRITING before you even pay a single dime to the tour operator. I might be generalizing, and that's not really my aim, but in a lot of cases once you have paid the initial deposit the attitude of the operator changes. So no matter what they say, always have your facts right and in writing before you hand over any money.

KEEP EVERYTHING TILL THE VERY END - Always keep all the correspondence you have with a tour operator/hotel till the very end of your trip and then a few days. Recently I was charged by a hotel that I had cancelled five months back (and had a cancellation confirmation as well). Had I not kept the emails, it would have been tiresome getting them to refund the money. But since I did have everything, a few phone calls and an honest review on Trip Advisor about the wrongful charges got me the refund back in a week’s time. 

THE COST OF REFUND - One of the most common practices employed by travel agencies/hotels/airlines is that if you pay a little extra and in case your trip is cancelled, they will refund your initial deposit. Now, in most cases it works fine, but always GET IT IN WRITING that you can cancel the trip for any reason. Some agencies have a small print to this in which certain excuses to cancel the trip are not accepted, so all the while you think that you can cancel it at anytime, whereas you really need a specific agency accepted reason to cancel the trip.

THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA - Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs; the world is simply a few clicks away. Use the social media for your benefit. Tell the world about any wrongdoings. The worst thing for any travel agency/hotel/tour operator is bad publicity, so use it wisely and make the most of the wonderful gift called the Internet.

CONTACT EVERYONE - The funniest thing about the whole episode trying to get my refund back was that I got more help from the UK division of the company than I did from the Indian (where the trip was booked). Since I am not naming the company, I would like to thank Laura and the Head of Customer Care UK of the company to have helped me get the matter sorted out quickly. So, the point is that contact everyone because you never know who might eventually come to your rescue.

GET THEIR CONTACT DETAILS - One of the biggest problems I have faced is trying to get the contact information (Fax, Email, and Phone) of a company head so that I can directly inform him/her of any bad customer service being provided. Now, this might not be the most honest way of getting information, but at times in desperation I have had to tell the secretary or customer care that I am calling from some "famous" organization and want to invite the head of the company for an event, thus I require his/her contact information. Guess what? Works like a charm.

And now a couple of requests to the Tour Operators, if you are reading this...

GET RID OF THE BAD APPLES - It disheartened me that the customer service provided in India is literally down the dumps. This seems to be true across all professions. All that the Indian companies want is money in their hands, and then they are nowhere to be found when it comes to providing the promised service. What these very companies don't understand that is that these very employees who don't know basic manners of talking to customers will at the end of the month go home with their salary. Whether the customer purchases anything or not makes no difference to their livelihood. But the companies by being amazingly ignorant towards such happenings are eventually the ones who loose out. So, do yourself a favor and get rid of these bad apples.

CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT - This used to be at one time the motto of every organization that provided any kind of service to the public. Now it seems it is the exact opposite. Learn to respect your customer and trust me the profits you will see because of that will be ten fold.

So, after all this, I feel bad for any individual who might not have the luxury of being as social media conscious as I am or for that matter for not having a blog. I do appreciate the words of wisdom and encouragement I got from the general public when I posted about my fight to get the refund. I know it helped. So it seems that the times are changing. The power is once again coming back into the hands of the customers. Make the most of it, and make sure you fight to get what is rightfully yours.  
  

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