Every January and February it seems to suddenly dawn on people that winter isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s like we’re pre-programmed to only be able to withstand 2-3 months of cold before we need to start making plans to escape on a brief hiatus to somewhere warm. When that internal alarm goes off, phones in travel agencies begin to ring off the hook. As a host agency that provides support to over 200 agents, our office becomes a frenzy of activity.
So while most things in nature naturally slow down during the winter, the opposite has been happening at Travel Quest. Outside of travel sales picking up tremendously, we’re currently tackling implementing a new intranet for our agents where they can see up-to-date commission tracking, find supplier information, watch our recorded lessons, access our industry and training calendar, and see company alerts. On top of that we’re negotiating contracts for some new preferred suppliers, expanding our Facebook program dramatically, training a new agent, and wrapping up the last few lessons of Travel Quest University, our online training program for our agents.
As with any big project, the portal has seen its fair share of bumps (ahem, gigantic hills at times) but overall we’ve taken them in stride. We’ve been launching it in stages to make sure we are prepared; and last week we launched the online commission statements agency-wide. We had been doing beta testing on it the past few months with a handful of agents. It seemed like it was going to be an easy transition. Oh was I wrong on that prediction…
Between last month’s beta-testing and this month’s launch, we changed to Windows 7. Yes, I see the red flags you are all waving! That sentence spells out impending doom to anyone who dares to put the word ‘change’ between ‘beta testing’ and ‘launch’ in a sentence. To make a long story short, our portal and Windows 7 aren’t friends. It pushed our launch 5 days back and when we were finally able to launch, some agents had situations we definitely had not run into previously. One of our agents that beta tested the portal with no problems, logged in and found the link he always clicked was no longer there. We’re still looking for it, so if you have an extra link that seems to have appeared out of nowhere that says “commissions,” please let me know.
It’s a few days after launch and there are still some unsolved mysteries but the bottom line is that the agents love the new streamlined process and so do we.
Other exciting news? I’ve been spearheading the expansion of our Facebook program since early last fall and am excited to announce we reached the 550 fan mark a few days ago! For those of you that have a launched a social media campaign, you know it’s very slow going in the beginning. It is a bit of a Catch-22. You’re trying to build your fan numbers but when someone visits your page the low fan numbers and lack of interaction that comes naturally with fewer fans doesn’t exactly scream out that you’re the new up and coming Facebook page. Why not check us out, and become a fan?
It’s really not so much about hitting the 500+ mark for me as it is that our page seems to have reached the point where it runs itself. There are enough fans that they interact easily with my postings and that of others, people are posting on their own, and it no longer seems that I’m posting to an absent audience! You can view our Facebook page (and become a fan!) at www.facebook.com/TQagents.
So it seems we are well on our way to building a more robust program for our agents. Despite a huge jump in agent numbers in January, our agent count is a little behind where it needs to be to double our agent count this year from 200 to 400. I may have been a little over enthusiastic on my goal once you break it down to adding an agent every 1.8 days!
Stephanie Lee works in Operations at Travel Quest, a host agency out of MN with over 200+ home-based travel agents. She graduated from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University with a degree in Environmental Studies/Liberal Studies. She was awarded ASTA Young Professional of the Year in 2008 and was named one of Travel Agent’s “30 under 30” in 2009. She can be reached at Stephanie@TQagents.com, via Google+, or 800.392.6484. For more information on Travel Quest visit www.TQagents.com or www.facebook.com/TQagents
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