How Kaizen could save an online travel agency

The number one concern of a lean organization is customer value.  Now how do you define customer value?  By involving end users, trying to get as much feedback as possible, asking customers to fill in evaluation forms, compare with your competitors,…?

Another way to help you define the value you want to offer your customers is taking the opposite approach.  What don’t we want our customer to experience?

Let me give you a real life example of my own.

A while ago we booked a holiday home in the southern part of Belgium via an online agency.  It turned out to be a complete disaster.  The house was not clean, the furniture was falling apart, there was a strange smell present, the garden was a wilderness, etc…

We were so upset when we arrived, that we were actually considering returning home.  We didn’t eventually, because the outlook of nice weather for the coming days would make us spend most of our time outside.

Meanwhile we contacted the agency and owners several time to send somebody over so we could discuss the situation.  Finally the owner arrived, not showing any empathy or cooperation at all.  She obviously didn’t care at all.  So we called the agency to inform them about the situation and ask for a refund.  They agreed to compensate us for our inconvenience, and that was it.  Nobody showed up to investigate the situation, nobody offered to look for alternatives, nothing.  When we returned home, we all felt that it was our duty to inform the visitors of the agency’s booking website about the terrible state of the house.  So we created some reviews on the website.  Half a year later, they still have not appeared online.  In fact, not one customer review is shown for this house, strange huh?

This experience was so confronting that it got me thinking about customer value, and the lack of attention of some companies.

These could be some answers of the agency to the question “What don’t we want our customer to experience?”:

  • A complaint from a customer who has just arrived in his holiday home.
  • A negative customer review post on their website.
  • A reimbursement to a customer.

All these things signal that there’s something going on and they must take action as soon as possible. 

For instance by applying the golden rules of gemba kaizen:

  • Go to gemba (the holiday home) first. 
  • Check gembutsu (the furniture, dirty floors, crappy garden) .
  • Take temporary countermeasures (such as relocate the family or clean the place).
  • Do a root cause analysis.
  • Standardize to prevent (make sure we notice this much earlier or prevent this entirely).

So my advice to is: make an effort to improve, you don’t want some blogger to write down his bad experiences with your crappy services.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.


  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How Kaizen could save an online travel agency « Nick Oostvogels’s Weblog --

  2. Even with the constant lapping of the tech industry and the travel industry, local online travel agencies will still have a place.

    One thing that technology can not replace from a travel agent is personal experience. And this is what agents should always offer to the customer.

  3. Marjolein

    Vanaf nu ben ik officieel fan van je

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