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How an Australian Travel Company Used Mystery Shopping to Improve Sales

Shoppers love a good deal, from clothing and dining to world travel. And these days, there is a growing number of travel websites available: CheapTickets, Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity, Tripadvisor, Orbitz… And that’s just in the United States! Some sites even let customers name their own prices, driving prices to rock bottom and offering users more freedom over the experience than they’ve ever had.

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So for travel companies still selling customized travel with a personal touch — sometimes at a premium price — good customer service is essential.

Considering these current market conditions, the Australia-based travel company Harvey World Travel recently finished a sweeping mystery shopper program that has uncovered some weaknesses within its sales force.

According to a news story on Travel Weekly magazine’s website, the specific results of Harvey’s program remain confidential, but company heads found that although agents could give callers plenty of details about Harvey’s services, but they didn’t have the confidence to seal the deal!

“Our consultants are great information givers, but are not having the confidence to ask for a deposit before divulging any more information,” lamented David Rivers, Harvey World Travel’s managing director.

Harvey told its employees about the program during its recent sales conference in Hong Kong and stressed that mystery shopping would become a regular occurrence and part of the company’s strategy.

Recent market research shows that Harvey World Travel’s brand-recognition status is in no danger — they’re second only to Flight Centre, another Australia-based travel agency. (It just so happens, according to the same mystery shopping organization, that Flight Centre fare only slightly better in its mystery-shopping endeavors.)

Obviously, companies whose reputations or viability are in peril aren’t the only ones that should be considering mystery shopping: Especially in super-competitive markets like the travel industry, it’s important for company owners to keep tabs on its sales force and understand both where improvements can be made and strengths can be reinforced.

After just one successful mystery shopping experience, Harvey World Travel’s officials know now to impress upon their consultants the importance of gathering better contact information for their prospects, asking for deposits before offering too much information for free, and guaranteeing the safety of in-person travel booking over online purchases.

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