Recently, I tried to explain how we dealt with enquiries in the early days of Seauton.
Because now, it's almost become a bit too easy - we can send an enquiry out to dozens of suitable suppliers in an instant. We can find all the information we need online and in the meantime get to work on a schedule.
Back then, and to be clear, back then is not actually that
long ago; I may be older but I'm not that old. But back then. Back then I
mostly received enquiries by fax, which I would respond to quickly with my old
Nokia and more importantly send a fax back (within 14 days was standard), with
the message that I had received their fax safely (the Nokia, now you're talking
nostalgia.. I could drop it as often as I liked, but that wouldn't go down well
with IT any more). But I'll get to the point... Then I had to forward each
enquiry to each individual partner (hotels, restaurants, bus companies,
airlines etc) separately by fax.
I'll try to describe an enquiry for a skiing weekend. A group of 40 people was faxed through to 60 hotels in the mountains: 60 separate faxes, each with the same question about availability and ideally a price straight up front. The responses would then come in from the trusty fax machine one to four weeks later, the thermal paper gently rolling off the fax machine; hopefully the paper had not been lying in the sun so that none of it was legible, and I would have to start again. And all the faxes contained a whole variety of handwritten answers and sometimes extra questions, which I answered diligently by hand. There were short exchanges between Jan from Leuven and Heidi from Tyrol. We trusted each other's handwriting. We loved each other.
And when I was able to send e-mails a bit later, because I was able to connect the computer to the analogue phone line every now and again, I invariably received the question from the hotels, who also happened to be connected to the internet, because they dared to briefly unplug their phones, asking if I couldn't just send them a fax...
And then I made the point to my young team - it has nothing to do with age for that matter, I have always been a little bit pedantic - that these technological wonders are just what they are. Just tools to support a passionately-organised event. Because the clients from back then forgot the fax a long time ago, but they still talk passionately and emotionally about the perfectly-planned skiing weekends. With real nostalgia.
And last week I heard that part of my team was thinking about what would be a suitable parting gift for a good customer... they were giving real consideration to buying a Polaroid camera, because it was cool... A Polaroid camera! A huge machine that you really shouldn't drop, believe me, do not. I know from experience. And you have to shake your analogue photos until they dry, and, whatever you do, don't leave them in the sun for too long.
Until next month. Jan