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Lean Thinking and Travel Agents – Documenting Your Processes

To improve on any process in your travel practice, you must first have a good understanding and working knowledge of the various steps you use. Yesterday, we introduced the idea of eliminating waste in our travel practice.  By eliminating waste, we deliver more value with the resources we have at our disposal. Today, let’s think about the importance of documenting your work-flow. By developing proper documentation, you can better understand the process and then subject it to analysis for continual improvement.

Why document your processes? Most importantly, so you will understand what is working and what is not. Let’s say you have access to fifty client leads over the next couple of months. Some of those clients book with you and others don’t. But can you actually pinpoint the reason why? The answer is important to Lean Thinking. Each of those prospects who did not travel with you represents waste – as well as a missed opportunity to deliver value. The money you spent recruiting those leads was wasted. The further into the sales process you went, the more time and energy was wasted, and the greater investment you had in a prospect that did not work out. According to Lean Thinking strategies, if we can eliminate waste, we will do a better job of delivering value to the clients who do travel with us and we will bring more profit to the bottom line.


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Think back to our discussions of the sales funnel. We determined there that by more closely examining the points in the sales process where we lost clients, we could potentially discover new insights into how to close more sales. In reality, this is an application of Lean Thinking. Here is an example with which many of us can identify.  A call comes into the office from a new client.  We set an appointment.  However, our appointment book is in the car so we write the appointment down on a sticky note. Another call comes in and we set a time to call back the client.  We are out of sticky notes so we write it down on the back of an envelope. Later, the sticky note gets lost and we miss the appointment. We forget to transcribe the envelope notes into our appointment book, so we miss that appointment as well.  Without a standard set of practices, followed each time, we risk waste and the loss of an opportunity to deliver value.

Standardization does not mean you will lose the ability to customize and personalize your responses and presentations. It does mean, however, that you won’t find yourself contacting the client for answers to questions you have forgotten to ask them or re-doing work because you have made an erroneous assumption about the client. A truly Lean environment should allow even an outsider to understand your processes and value streams and how to replicate them. By bringing your processes to the level of standardization, you can replicate your successes and quit repeating your mistakes.

Think about these areas of standardization and then develop others that apply to your travel practice:

  • How do you answer the phone? What questions do you ask of new prospects calling to inquire about travel?
  • What guidelines do you use for advertising? Do you promote product? Price? Service? How do you know which ad people are calling about?
  • How do you schedule your appointments?
  • What questions do you ask in each client interview?
  • Do you require a fee? When do you ask for it? How do you describe it?
  • How much time elapses between a client interview and your presentation?
  • Do you have templates for your presentations? Disclaimers? How do you utilize them?
  • How many options do you give a client in a presentation?

Each of these issues, and many more like them, are steps in your value stream, from process to ultimate customer value. To the extent you can document and standardize your procedures, the better you will be at repeating your successes and eliminating waste. If you can repeat what works and quit doing what doesn’t, you are closer to achieving Lean Thinking in your travel practice.

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