At work, our value and our competence are judged on the bottom line. Numbers are easily measurable. Good people make money. Good people save money.
But when purchasing – whether a single item or negotiating an annual contract – price is irrelevant if not comparing like with like. But no matter what amount of money you are spending you have the right to receive an agreed level of service.
No-one can expect the same level of service at vastly different prices for the same commodity, but no matter what you buy you are entitled to receive the level of service you have been sold. In travel people often think that if they are staying in, say, a budget property then they have no right to expect any service.
Service shouldn’t be thought of as a luxury. It is integral to almost any product offering. If you are buying a hotel room, you are not just buying the bed but all sorts of service expectations from the process (that they actually have your booking for the right night and at the right price, for example) to the product (the room should be clean, the linen should be clean and of an acceptable standard) to the staff (courteous and able to answer questions).
No sense in just having a roof over your head if there’s a fire in the middle of the night and none of the staff have been trained in fire safety procedures.
But so many of these items contribute to the hidden cost. Training costs money and that must be absorbed in overheads. No-one would expect a housekeeper on call and a nightly turndown service in a budget hotel, but basic cleanliness should go without saying.
This may seem painfully obvious and you might be wondering why I’m wittering on – probably because within the travel industry, great debates are held about whether travel is becoming commoditised. What do they mean?
Well, buying travel used to be soft and cuddly and built on relationships and buying the service you wanted from someone you like and negotiating around soft benefits such as lounge access, upgrades and other forms of traveller recognition.
Then technology systems meant that bookings could be converted into information about buying patterns. This was one of the contributory factors that saw the purchase of travel go into procurement. Old-fashioned travel industry professionals moan that buying travel is different – it’s not like buying paper clips. In fact it is. But then again buying anything is different but some basic principles must remain.
You have to know what you are buying. You have to know what you are flexible on and what you are not so that you can negotiate the best price. And when you look at that price you must ensure that you know exactly what you’re buying. What exactly does ‘last room availability’ mean?
And as well as knowing what you are buying, you must know what you need to buy. An ensuite whirlpool bath might be a product too far, but service in the sense of someone who will come to help you with an ISDN connection when you need to use an ISDN could be an essential element of service for one kind of company and a frill for another.
Know what you need. Ask for it clearly. And remember to get all the support and service to which you are entitled for that product at that price.