Back to Basics: Mastering the Reservation Phone Line

I’ve written about this previously, but it’s basic information that can’t be repeated too many times.  I know that most people do their research and booking online, but there are times when you are going to have to call a reservation center.

It can be annoying to be put on hold, and repeatedly hear how many callers are ahead of your or how long your expected wait time is, and even further annoying to finally get a person who you can’t understand.  I hope these tips will help reduce your frustration factor, and get you the information and service that you really need.

  • Call at non-peak times.  This means avoiding calls during standard business hours, if at all possible.  Late nights (generally considered after 8 pm) are usually good are usually light in terms of wait time.
  • News stories can impact the number of calls made to the call center/reservation line.  If there’s a major event concerning your airline or the destination that you are traveling to, and your need for information isn’t truly urgent, wait a bit to place your phone call.  If it’s urgent, of course you would call, but if your travel plans are weeks down the road, let the critical situation pass and then place your call.
  • If the purpose of your call is more for research, and not to book a specific flight/room, let the agent know this right up front.  I say something like:  “I’m planning a trip to XXX, and am gathering the information I need to make my decision.  Do you have time to assist me?”  By doing this, they can take the time to dig a little deeper and explore more alternatives with you.  Agents are evaluated by how quickly they can get on and off the call to make a booking.  If a supervisor is standing over your agent’s shoulder, they will not be the help that you need them to be.
  • If the discussion is all about price (as opposed to convenience and/or time), once you are quoted a price ask if the price quoted is the best available.  I use this phrase a lot:  “Wow!  I didn’t expect that it would be that high, is that the best you can find?”  Digging a little deeper might (or might not) find something, but at least you’re asking for alternatives.
  • Be polite.  If you are getting information that just doesn’t seem right, politely explain and ask the agent to check again.  Miscommunication and/or misunderstanding is usually the reasons this kind of stuff happens, but mistakes can and do happen.  Both of you should be allowed an “ooops” moment, and then just start fresh.

Do you have techniques that have worked for you when dealing with reservation agents?  Please leave your suggestions in the comments!



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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.

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