It’s not where you book, but how the experience makes you feel

Steve Byrne, Managing Director

Today Thomas Cook announced their decision to close loss-making shops, claiming this is related to the growth in e-commerce - or customers booking it on-line.

There is no doubt that across a number of retail sectors there is a growth in on-line business. What is not clear is to what extent that growth is governed by the customers genuinely preferring to shop on-line and the experience being good for them, or to what extent it is also influenced by the fact that the customer experience in shops - and I talk here in general about the high street not just travel - does not live up to the customers' expectations.

If you ever bought something from Amazon and then had to send it back, compare how painless that is to buying and returning goods in a shop, or maybe some shops.

The risk is that the announcement by Thomas Cook and the surrounding media coverage only serves to re-inforce that whilst the high street is a declining model, the only other choice customers have is to book on-line. 

Clearly that isn't the case. You simply can't replicate on-line what our Travel Counsellors do for their customers and the impartiality they offer. That is why over 90% of their customers would recommend them to their family and friends. Therefore, booking on-line is not necessarily what a customer would choose if they were given the opportunity for a better experience and an independent validation that the holiday is right for that customer, which is what our Travel Counsellors offer.

In the same vein, what is clear is that the customer experience and needs on-line have moved on. It's no longer just about e-commerce, but about 'experience' and connecting people.

Historically, technology on-line was about the 'transactional' left hand side of the brain stuff rather than emotion.  That is in stark contrast though to brands like e-bay that use technology to change people's lives, connect people and build a community, which is what we do at Travel Counsellors.

On e-bay, community members are invited to rate each other after each transaction and this is shared with other members.  As e-bay founder Pierre Omidyar is quoted as saying he "wanted his corner of cyberspace to be a place where people made real connections with each other, and where a social contract prevailed".

Amazon has also been built on great experience. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said; "If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that".

Our Travel Counsellors will use their professionalism, independence and inherent care to get the right holiday for their customer or arrange everything so that a corporate client's business trip is just right. So the place that companies may initially connect with customers may change, but the reasons why people will come back to them, has not.


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