Like an artist inspired to paint by his surroundings, my inspiration for this entry came from being in a Travel Agency this past week. My move to the supplier/technology side of the industry doesn’t present me with many opportunities to observe the front line dealings of agencies. Usually when I do get to visit an agency, I spend most of my time in a meeting room.
Right off the bat, it was great to see junior agents who truly love their chosen profession. These up-and-comers willingly embraced change and were so quick to adapt to whatever came their way. They treated every customer with respect and appreciation for their business. If they are the future of travel, we have a lot to look forward to.
As for the senior agents, it’s easy to tell the good ones by how busy they are. The best even work on days off, just to try and keep up. As the saying goes ‘you have to make hay when the sun shines’.
What I loved about this group is their continued personal investment in training and education to become ‘destination and product specialists’. They don’t rest on their laurels, even though many of them have been doing this for 10 or 20 years. Not unlike a surgeons, lawyers, even hairdressers, agents have to stay current and up-to-date on what’s new and trendy. These agents understand that they alone are responsible for their personal development, and they take it very seriously.
Much has been written and debated about the future of travel agents, and it’s true that the travel agents of yesteryear are a dying breed. Anybody can go online and search airfares; why would they need a travel agent to do that? To succeed and grow in this business, we have to provide value to the consumer. Especially if we administer fees for our services, clients will (and do) expect more.
I encountered a perfect example of the value of a good travel agent this week. A couple wanted to attend a wedding in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There isn’t an airport in Atlantic City, so the agent researched the closest airport, and then arranged ground transportation to and from. What would seem like a simple booking was, in the end, rather complex, and required a lot of time to piece together.
Situations like the Icelandic Volcanic Ash Crisis where more than 95,000 flights were cancelled throughout Europe, or the recent Tsunami in Japan remind us why having a reliable travel agent is still important.
Are these isolated incidents? Maybe. But imagine if you were booked to travel on one of those 95,000 cancelled flights in Europe, and you just wanted to get home. A good travel agent would prove invaluable to you. They know whom to contact and how in emergency situations such as this, and in the end you would no doubt be happy with the return you got on that 35 or 50 dollar service fee you paid.
No matter how the industry may change, agents who care about their clients, and are willing to go the extra mile for them will never go out of style.
This week, when I saw travel agents actually walk up to a customer to greet them – not just sitting behind a desk or motioning them to come sit down – it reconfirmed my belief that these agents get it.
I read a book in the 90’s by Kenneth Blanchard called Raving Fans and as James F. Nordstrom, Co Chairman of Nordstroms said, “Making your customers Raving Fans is the competitive edge today.” It is the simple things that mean the most.
So, how does your agency work to create Raving Fans?