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New Customer-Centric Initiative for Travel Services Sector in Singapore

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The travel services sector in Singapore has embarked on a new journey towards ensuring service excellence with the launch of its Customer-Centric Initiative or CCI.

Known as the NATAS-CCI, the project led by the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) with support from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and SPRING Singapore, aims for members of the travel agency industry in Singapore to commit to service excellence and to raise service standards, particularly in the areas of service leadership, service agility, and delivering a quality customer experience.

Mr. William Tan, President of NATAS said, With increasing competition and challenges due to direct sales from suppliers and eroding commissions, travel agents need to justify their existence in this market or risk being eliminated. To keep up, they will need to bring their customer service to a whole new level.

Ever since its inception in January, 82 travel agency companies have pledged their commitment to this project. Of the 82 participating companies, five have gone on to embark on their individual CCIs.

The five companies are: Citystate Travel Pte Ltd, Giamso International Tours Pte Ltd, Konsortium Express and Tours Pte Ltd, Stamford Travel Pte Ltd, and Tour East Singapore Pte Ltd.

Ms Amy Yeh, General Manager of Citystate Travel said that the reason the company decided to embark on its own CCI is to improve the service standard. As a customer-oriented company, it saw the opportunity to align its vision and mission with all aspects of the business in times of changing customer expectations. It also felt that it was a good idea for its staff to undergo training and upgrading.

This commitment also includes the appointment of Service Quality Managers, or service champions who will be trained by NATAS to help roll out the service standards, coach staff back in their respective travel agencies as well as to conduct service campaigns and benchmarking, within their organisation. A total of 192 SQMs have been appointed so far.

The adoption of the CCI by NATAS was also accompanied by an assistance package developed to assist companies in their service quality transformation.

For a start, NATAS has received an integrated assistance package with items including access to a list of consultants and training providers, funding support for service quality training to industry workers, and industry customer satisfaction diagnosis toolkits.

In addition, NATAS also entered into a strong partnership with SPRING to jointly reach out to travel agencies to build membership into the program.

Some of the ensuing proactive efforts include periodical service campaigns, service excellence initiatives and in recognising service excellence among the travel industry professionals.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Co-Chairperson of the GEMS Up/ CCI Working Committee and NTUC Director (Quality Worklife) commended NATAS for having the foresight to want to train, encourage and empower their staff to put customers satisfaction first. Service is an essential component of these businesses. By adding value to their brand, they will generate more business through repeat customers and positive word-of-mouth recommendations. This will give them a competitive edge and provide a foundation for business sustainability in both good and challenging times, he said.

The NATAS CCI has also been aligned with the Singapore Service Star (SSS). Developed by the STB, the SSS is an accreditation scheme that seeks to recognise and promote businesses that deliver good service and exhibit sound business practices.

Mr Tony Lai, STBs Assistant Chief Executive for the Sector Planning and Development Group, said, Under the SSS scheme, travel agents will now be able to measure the overall customer experience and holiday experiences via audit tools such as mystery shopping exercises as well as customer satisfaction surveys. This will enable businesses to better identity areas for improvements -- all towards the creation and delivery of a more compelling and unique holistic customer experience.

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