Agents need to talk the talk | TravelResearchOnline

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Agents need to talk the talk

When was the last time a client walked into your office and asked you to print a boarding pass? When was the last time you went home with red fingers? When was the last time you printed a paper ticket? When was the last time a cruise company mailed documents in a document jacket to you for your client’s upcoming cruise? When was the last time you mailed a postcard advertising the latest specials in your agency?  If I had to guess, the answer likely is “a long time ago”.

Times have changed. When I closed one of my offices, we discovered a pack of carbon paper behind a counter. My children looked on in awe as if we had discovered the missing link or the Loch Ness Monster. When I opened it up, they were at a loss as to what to do with it. The point I am trying to make is that if you are not changing with the times, you are likely going to wind up like my kids and the carbon paper—mystified and clueless.

Last week, I began to take part in an online conversation regarding social media. And to be honest, I bowed out rather quickly. I was completely disappointed at the reaction (or lack of it) to social media many agents are taking.  The initial inquiry was about a man who sent a tweet looking for advice on travel to the Amalfi Coast.

I’m planning a trip to Naples/Capri/Amalfi coast for some R&R and writing. I’m open to ideas/suggestions. Thanks!

The comments in response were amazing. Some agents berated him for doing it on his own. Others said they were too busy to learn Twitter or Facebook. And others still immediately dismissed the notion as being a ridiculous way to communicate.  To those agents, pick up your rotary dial phones—here’s your wake up call!

This is the way your clients want to communicate with you!

How many clients have come into your office lately with a request like that? Wouldn’t the sensible response have been to reply to his tweet and perhaps direct him to a page on your site that discusses the Amafli Coast? If you are sitting in your office waiting for the phone to ring while everyone is on Facebook, how much business will you get? You need to change with the times.

Going back to my kids for a minute; they have had the same email addresses for over ten years. Zero percent of their e-communication is by email. It is by texting, IMing (also dying), tweeting and Facebooking. When I send then an e-mail, I get a “mailbox full” response. Yes, you read that right, e-mail is on the way out.

Do you need some more convincing? How about March 2009’s “Global Faces and Networked Places” – Nielsen’s report (PDF) on “Social Networking’s New Global Footprint” which states that social networking has taken over e-mail in popularity on the Internet. The report is fascinating!

Need more proof?  Absolut vodka is one of the world’s most recognizable and valuable brands. You recognize the product without labels, without description, and without sound. I would venture to say that they probably have a leg up on every travel agency in terms of marketing know how to a targeted audience. Look at their new television ads. The very last thing you will see is

facebook.com/absolut

Why Facebook? Because now, they have a site that has two way communication with their targeted audience. Do you remember your teen years and the peer pressure you faced? Facebook is a master at peer pressure. Just look at all the fans of Absolut—you know you want to be one too! And once you are a fan, Absolut has an entre to you—and your friends. Had they just tagged the ad with their website, they may have seen some traffic, but there is no real hook to get the web visitor to come back. However, once they have you as a fan, they can send you their newest commercial, perhaps let you know about a contest to go to Finland, or just send you a message to say hello.

Some in our industry really do need to wake up. Our customers are speaking a different language now and if we don’t know how to converse, we might as well set up shop in Siberia. The learning curve may be a challenge, but the numbers cited in the above report should be alarming to everyone. It’s worth it!

And, by the way, are you following TRO on Twitter?

  6 thoughts on “Agents need to talk the talk

  1. Jan Ross says:

    I am the Social Media Director for The Travel Authority and it has been very interesting to find out how few of our agents know much about this new way of selling travel. They are very open to learning, however!

  2. Kate says:

    This is an excellant article and needed. After spending 20 years as a travel agent, I can see both sides of the coin when it comes to agents trying to keep up with social media. As a consultant now that works with airports and airlines, I market directly to travel industry professionals, mostly by way of social media. It’s amazing how many travel agents I try to reach out to don’t even answer their emails or block incoming news about their local airport and invitations to industry events. It’s like they don’t want to be bother by social media. It’s too bad because as someone who organizes special events for airports and airlines, travel agents not paying attention will miss out.

  3. Loved your article. OK, we are in the dark ages, I admit! But so many of our clients — with tons of time and lots of money to spend — don’t even have email, much less twitter or anything else. They don’t even have computers. This is changing of course — and we plan to keep up with the times. But just wanted you to know that 1. We still do send out postcards. These get a huge response. 2. We send out email promotions and an on-line magazine, but only to those who have requested it, of course and 3. We still publish our paper magazine, mailed to subscribers. We still send out paper documents. But thank you for the wake up call. We will do our best to arise from the Dark Ages.

    Sincerely,

    Eleanor Hardy
    President
    The Society of International Railway Travelers

  4. Joel Wechsler says:

    Very interesting article. Even though I am well into my second half-century I do use Facebook and Twitter. The latter, however, I find less useful with clients because of the 140 character limit for tweets. I would not agree that email is on the way out, as it is still the preferred method of communication for my 30 and 40-something clients in the music and publishing world. Perhaps this will change, though I doubt it, since itis just as easy to send an email as to post a message on Facebook. Perhaps they will turn to texting, however.

  5. Russ Dunlap says:

    I’m the vice-president of marketing with Platinum Travel…Still the best way to market yourself is to tell people face to face what you do and get out and make contacts. Then, when you send out emails or post on Facebook, they’ll connect the dots and remember you. Think of yourself as the product. It’s still way better to call up a client and ask them, hey, what’s up, and then after that, all the clutter they receive via direct mail, emails, and Facebook postings become more personal to them and it’s not just a pile of paper or words…by the way, it’s interesting to see that the majority of posts on here are from agents in the Louisville area!

  6. John Frenaye says:

    Russ–I see The Travel Authority that I know is in the Louisville area…..is the Soc. of Int’l Railway Travelers in Louisville as well?

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