For the past month, we have been very busy with client requests, trade shows, and after-hours networking events. While I continue to attend these events, because I think they are critical to the business, there hasn’t been anything new, different, and exciting to report.
Fortunately, I have been assisting a lot of repeat clients and others who are referrals. Word of mouth helped our business blossom, and it continues to spread like wildfire.
Our marketing team recently updated our website by switching to SpoonDrawer Media. This company creates websites for travel agencies, and it looks cleaner and more professional than our previous website. In the past, we handled our site in-house. With this switch, we realized it’s important to know when to reach out to the professionals vs. doing something on your own. The end result is spending less time and money on something that is not our area of expertise.
Speaking of expertise, I’m going to throw a question to the multi-agent offices. Does your agency split agents into areas of expertise or do they handle numerous destinations or types of travel?
If you specialize, what is working for you? We have thought a lot about this since we all have our areas of expertise and comfort. How do you make it fair? Many of the Mexican and Caribbean tour operators offer incentives for selling their products. So, how would our Ireland specialist benefit? At the same time, it’s difficult for our Ireland specialist to keep up with the Mexican and Caribbean destinations. Also, there are honeymoons, groups, Europe, Disney World, and cruises to consider. Is it possible to fairly split these destinations among the agents in your office?
And, what about airfare? We no longer use a GDS system, so booking an air ticket means using a consolidator or the airline’s website directly. This often takes more time than booking a Caribbean vacation. If someone is booking a cruise through our agency, it makes sense, but when someone calls randomly for an airline ticket only, is it worth our time and effort?
Business travel is one other area with which we struggle. Some agents feel that specific clients have been “their” clients for so long, and they must continue to book business travel for them. As I mentioned, we don’t have a GDS, and unless we book directly through the hotel, there are often significant penalties if they have to cancel. Is it time to let the business travel experts take over this portion of our business? In my opinion, these clients will be better served, and will appreciate the fact that we referred them to the specialists.
While being busy is good, we struggle to balance efficiency with thoroughness. Ideally, we’d like to spend a lot of time with every prospect, but often that is just not feasible. We are a high volume agency and we are answering phones, greeting clients, handling appointments, providing quotes, responding to requests, calling tour operators, etc. How can we be effective in our jobs and provide exceptional service to our clients when we are too busy multi-tasking? We need the time to exceed our clients’ expectations and not just meet them.
Will implementing some of the changes I mentioned above do this? What model is working for your agency?
Mary Jo Babiarz, Senior Travel Consultant with Cary Travel Express, has been in the travel business since 2005. Her love of travel has taken her to destinations such as Hawaii, many Caribbean islands, several Mediterranean port cities, and lots of Mexican vacation destinations. She is particularly knowledgeable about the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but has extended knowledge in the Caribbean as well. An avid photographer, Mary Jo is known to thrill her clients with her first hand photos. You can reach Mary Jo at Cary Travel Express or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.