Why the travel industry should come out from behind the digital curtain and talk to peopleNewsBy Viewpoints | December 6, 2011Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a guest post by Murray Harold, a homeworking business travel agent from Buckinghamshire, UK.This morning, I was packing boxes. At the same time, I was thinking about getting someone to help with the processing bit. The packing, the invoicing and other general bits and bobs.Not travel-related, I know, but nonetheless, I started thinking about travel and how we present ourselves.The importance of boxesWhen the recipient opens the box, they are not looking at their purchase. They are looking at you. Your company, your presentation. It does not matter how good your website is, how well placed on Google (or any other search engine), or how good adverts are for your shop are, how clever your marketing is or how much effort you put into presenting yourself to the local community or how many awards you have won.If what turns up is rubbish, not value for money, but above all, not right, you have failed.Yet we entrust these tasks to some of the lowest paid people in the business. These are people we control to the maximum, we give little or no empowerment to. We do not trust them to do the job properly.So, we have checks and balances, more checks and more balances and so the spiral continues. More control to cover up less empowerment. These people – the frontline (or "coalface") agents as I like to call them – are the point at which our product or service meets the end user.Taking Possession – giving possessionThis interface, be it online or offline, is the point where the end user wants to meet your company, your service.They do not wish to meet someone who is merely a conduit, merely a person who is there to take the flack and then push the issue off to some faceless individual who can hide behind and email address.Yet we do this and wonder why people become disillusioned. We send people off to call centres in heavens-knows-where, where there is often little cultural understanding.Or all we have is an "email us" page, without even the opportunity to establish the actual email address. Why? Because (one can but assume) we are frightened. We fear that our product or service is not up to par. We are expecting lots of complaints, lots of problems and the last thing we want our customers to know, is where to find us.What we should do, therefore, is be prepared to take possession. Have people say: "I will deal with this, I will resolve it". My name is such-and-such and the buck stops with me. How refreshing!The magic word - speaking!How would you feel if you had a problem, rang Barclays Bank and said: "I want to speak to [CEO] Bob Diamond", but the reply was: "Speaking"?No machines, no buttons, no assault trenches of PAs and secretaries? Just "Speaking". Or, if you rang Facebook, asked for Mark Zuckerberg and you got the same answer: "Speaking".I often get called by firms or customers who say: "Can I speak to Mr Harrold?" When I reply "Speaking", there is silence at the other end of the telephone, generally followed by the request to speak to me being repeated.Yet what better way to find out what is going on, where the problems are, what is selling, what better way of getting THE best reputation? What would the client who had just called think?Imagine this reaction: "I rang Barclays, asked for Bob Diamond and he is going to look into it!"Okay, I know busy CEOs cannot spend all their time answering the telephone, but one day a month, maybe a few hours each week (or month, even), the big boss picks up some arbitrary calls.Over time, we have, paradoxically, lost the ability to communicate. As technology offers more opportunity, we choose to hide behind it rather than use it. We pass over to technology those functions at which we humans are best at and spend hours of time and millions of dollars trying to work out how best to improve on something which has done it’s job so well for the past 2,000 – odd years.How can I replace the most up to date, efficient, ability-to-laterally think piece of organic software with something which is much more expensive and is bound to be manifestly less efficient?We have taken the ability to communicate better and made it into something which actually saves us, as individuals, having to communicate at all.What we have not asked, is: Is this what our customers want? Answer the telephone… maybe you will find out!NB: This is a guest post by Murray Harold, a homeworking business travel agent from Buckinghamshire, UK.NB2:Image via Shutterstock.