Are you old enough to remember when travel agents were an essential part of your life? To book a vacation you had to go to a travel agent. There was no other choice. Every town had at least one, and in the big cities travel agencies were on every corner.

First, before you set foot in the travel agency, you might do a little research about the sort of vacation you had in mind. Warm weather at a beach? Or perhaps a week of skiing? Maybe a cruise? Did you want to go somewhere exotic and far away? Or nearby within driving distance?

Doing the research was really, really difficult.

You would ask friends for recommendations, but they knew only so much. You could read a travel magazine, but with only a limited number of pages in each issue, it was hardly comprehensive. Guidebooks helped, but because of the book publication cycles, they were inevitably dated. If you wanted to compare different destinations, you needed more than one guidebook. And by definition, a book is just one person's opinion—the author's. No matter how much research you did, it was never enough to get a total picture of a potential holiday location.

Sooner or later you had to go into that travel agency, and that's when you surrendered control of the already imperfect process: You had to put yourself at the mercy of a salesperson. As she sat behind a terminal, she tossed out destination options, quoted prices for flights and rental cars, and suggested hotels. Perhaps she loaded you up with a bunch of ...

Get The New Rules of Sales and Service now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.